Is Christianity based on blind faith?
In one sense, we all operate every day on faith in many different areas of our lives. If you've ever eaten at a restaurant, accepted a doctor's prescription, or planned for the future, you have certainly been operating on a degree of "blind faith."
As C. S. Lewis said (see resource list), most of the things you believe are believed on authority or on secondary evidence. For example, you may never have actually seen a living dinosaur, but you are confident that dinosaurs once existed. Of course, experience and rational investigation should increase your confidence in what is true.
The issue is not faith. Everyone has a faith--atheist, agnostic, or Christian. The real issue is what is a worthy object of our faith. In this essay we will show that Christianity is reasonable and rational, that it is logically consistent, that it fits the evidence, and that it is relevant for modern man. And we hope to clear up a few common misconceptions about Christianity.
Christianity is not mere blind faith. As emphasized by theologian D. James Kennedy, the claim that belief in Christianity produces an irrational, uneducated, unintelligent, or unintellectual view of life is completely false. And the statement that unbelief produces a rational and intelligent and enlightened view of the universe is equally false.
Blind faith is faith without evidence, which would be superstition. The Bible does not call us to blind faith. The Bible calls us to faith in evidence. We submit that various truth claims, including Christianity, should be evaluated on the evidence.
Yes, there will always be a step of faith for the Christian. But that step doesn't require a person to leave his brains at the church door.
Perhaps you have never seen a reasoned, logical explanation of Christianity. Stand by to be challenged
Is there rational evidence for the existence of God?
Authors Boa and Moody (see resource list) explain that there are essentially three possibilities as to the origin of the universe and the implications about God:
- That the universe emerged from nothing. Little needs to be said about this notion. Nothing produces nothing. This premise is neither logical nor reasonable.
- That the universe is eternal. There are three strong scientific reasons why the universe is not eternal: (a) the big bang theory, (b) the abundance of hydrogen, and (c) the irreversible decay of the universe.
- The discovery by Edwin Hubble that the universe appears to be uniformly expanding in all directions leads to the conclusion that the universe had a beginning.
- Hydrogen is continually being converted into helium through the process of nuclear fusion. This process is irreversible, so the abundance of hydrogen in the cosmos belies the notion of an eternal universe.
- The second law of thermodynamics says that while the total amount of energy remains constant (the first law), the availability of usable energy in the universe is constantly declining (the second law). Apart from the intervention of a supernatural agent (God), the stars would have burned out and the universe would have run down like a clock with no one to wind it back up. The logical conclusion is that it cannot be true that an infinite amount of time has passed because the universe would have reached a cold and lifeless state of absolute equilibrium.
- That the universe was created by an eternal being. By process of elimination, the existence of an omnipotent God is the most reasonable conclusion for origin.
Common sense reaches the same conclusion. There is evidence of intelligent design all around us. If one sees a bird's nest, he concludes that a bird made it. If one sees a computer, he must acknowledge the evidence of an intelligent computer designer. The fact of a creation demands a creator.resource list.) We submit that the laws of physics could only have come from an omnipotent and rational God.
There are numerous other scientific evidences for the existence of God. Even non-Christian Stephen Hawking, considered the best-known scientist since Albert Einstein, acknowledges "...the universe and the laws of physics seem to have been specifically designed for us. If any one of about 40 physical qualities had more than slightly different values, life as we know it could not exist: Either atoms would not be stable, or they wouldn't combine into molecules, or the stars wouldn't form the heavier elements, or the universe would collapse before life could develop, and so on...." (Austin American-Statesman, October 19, 1997. See also Walter Bradley video, in
Are Christians "Anti-Science"?
Not at all. Science has many Christian roots. Most of the early scientists were Christians (Copernicus, Galileo, Pascal, Isaac Newton, Carl Linnaeus, Johannes Keppler, Robert Boyle, Louis Pasteur, Jean Henri Fabre, Michael Faraday, John Ambrose Fleming, etc.). These great scientists operated within a Christian framework.
An interesting fact is that the vast majority of all scientific development has come out of western civilization, which has Christianity as its basis. Christianity views God as rational and trustworthy, which implies that His creation is rational and orderly and thus can be examined. Nature in the Christian view (as compared to non-Christian worldviews) was no longer an object of fear and worship.
The idea of laws of nature came from Christianity. And the concepts of subduing nature and being stewards of nature are right from the first book of the Bible--Genesis.
As D. James Kennedy suggests (see resource list), science could not have begun in the Buddhist or Hindu worlds. The essence of those religions is that the physical world has no reality. Scientific inquiry requires the assumption that the world is real. Nor could science have begun in the Muslim world because that worldview is dominated by fatalism, and fatalism is antithetical to the concept of progress.
Misconceptions about the Bible have been around for a long time. For example, one misconception is that the Bible teaches that the earth is flat, or that it is the center of the universe. A closer examination of Scripture shows otherwise. The idea of a flat earth from the Bible is rooted in the biblical language of "four corners" in Isaiah 11:12 and Revelation 7:1, and "four winds" in Jeremiah 49:36 and Matthew 24:31. The Hebrew and Greek words translated "corner" are also translated as "quarter" and are best understood as "directions" or "headings." The Bible's usage obviously refers to the four directions as measured from the particular focal point of interest and is the standard convention used in surveying and mapping to this day. Moreover, in Isaiah 40:22 the Bible uses the term the "circle of the earth," also translated "sphere of the earth" as is evident from the context.
It can be said that Christianity has produced more literate and educated people than any other movement in the history of mankind. In our own country, all but 3 of the first 126 colleges established in the United States were built in order to propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Bible was not written as a science textbook. But, when the Bible does reveal truths related to science, the Bible can be trusted. Indeed, the Bible demonstrates scientific knowledge and concepts far before mankind had developed the technological base for such knowledge.
Biologist William J. Cairney (in the book edited by John Warwick Montgomery, see resource list) discusses many such biblical pre-science evidences in the fields of human health, disease control, agriculture, etc. He states, "These rules of sanitation and diet stand on a foundation requiring considerable knowledge of epidemiology, microbiology, physiology, plant pathology, and animal pathology, all of which require a technological base not available until the last hundred years or so of human history."
Henry Morris (in Appendix 8 of his Defender's Study Bible, see resource list) lists numerous other pre-science evidences in the Bible.
So-called conflicts of science and the Bible are often conflicts between interpretations of the facts. While there are questions for which there are as yet no explanation, there is no fundamental conflict between science and Scripture. (See also the Evolution or Creation section of our web site.)
More importantly, while we live in a time of change and of great scientific discovery, what we discover about the human heart is that it has not changed at all. Matters of human nature, emotions, relationships, and ultimate meaning remain the same. It is in Scripture that we find enduring truths as appropriate for modern man as for ancient man.
How do you know that the Bible is true? Isn't it just a bunch of fables?
There are many evidences that confirm that the Bible is reliable. First, history and archeology confirm the biblical record. Over 25,000 sites have now been discovered that pertain to the Bible. As Nelson Glueck, renowned Jewish archaeologist said, "It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference." Even though archeology does not prove spiritual truth, archeological confirmation is an amazing testimony to the accuracy of the Bible.
As a comparison, the religion of Mormonism makes many claims as to history, especially about the Americas. Yet none of its claims have been or can be verified by archeology, seriously damaging its credibility.
Another fascinating and unique aspect of Christianity is the accuracy of biblical prophecy. There are over 2,000 accurately fulfilled predictions in the Bible including over 200 specific details about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. For example, Isaiah 53 beautifully describes the life of Christ 700 years before it took place! Even the town of Jesus' birth was foretold in the Old Testament (Micah 5:2). And there are no prophetic failures.
The Bible contains page after page of history written in advance. The skeptic must come to grips with this evidence.
Concerning the New Testament, it is helpful to appreciate that all of the New Testament writers were of the generation of Jesus. Each writer was either an eyewitness to Jesus or was an interviewer of eyewitnesses. Three of the writers were Jesus' disciples-Matthew, John, and Peter.
Another key fact is the manuscript evidence itself. Recognizing that there are no known original manuscripts in existence for the Bible or for any other ancient writing, let's examine the Bible. For the New Testament, there are over 24,000 handwritten copies or portions thereof from antiquity now extant. This is far more than other ancient books. For example, the second most available ancient manuscripts are from Homer's Iliad, for which there are 643 manuscript copies, while most ancient documents have fewer than 25 existing copies.
Important is the time interval between the actual events, the date of writing, and the earliest known manuscript copy. For the Bible, manuscript copies or portions thereof exist that were written within 35 to 160 years after the originals. Recent dating of one manuscript of a portion of the Gospel of Matthew (the so-called Magdalen text) suggests that it was written in about A.D. 50-a mere 17 years after the crucifixion of Christ. If these findings hold up, it means that the Gospel of Mark, which predates the Matthew Gospel, was written as early as A.D. 40-only seven years or so after the crucifixion.
The interval between the historical events and the written evidence is far better for the New Testament than any other ancient manuscript. For example, the first account of Buddha's life was written 700 years after his death. The earliest copy of Caesar's works is 950 years after being written, and the earliest available copy of Plato's works is dated 1250 years after the original. Yet we do not question the authority of these other works!
Even more impressive is the degree of textual variance in existing copies. Considering the enormous number of ancient New Testament manuscripts, there are only nominal differences in the various copies. The data for the New Testament is impressive. Only 40 lines, or one fifth of one per cent are in question. This compares to large textual variances in other ancient writings. For example, the New Testament is 25 times more accurately copied than the Iliad, which was also "sacred" and is considered one of the best copied works of antiquity.
Further support for the Bible comes from the fact that events of the New Testament are supported by writings outside the Bible. Corroboration is available from several secular and Jewish historians of antiquity. (Examples: Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Epictetus, Lucian, Aristides, Josephus, etc.)
Another interesting thing is the thousands of quotations found in writings of the early Church Fathers (A.D. 100-450). Even if all the New Testament manuscripts disappeared, it would still be possible to reconstruct almost the entire New Testament with quotes from the Church Fathers.
Thus, in his book, The Bible and Archaeology, Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, former director and principal librarian of the British Museum, stated about the New Testament: "The interval, then, between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact, negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established."
In addition to its being externally verified, significant further evidence of its reliability is the internally consistent nature of the Bible. It is truly an amazingly consistent document. The messages of approximately 40 different writers of the 66 books of the Bible, written over 1,500 years, in three different languages, all fit together like the pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle. There is one continual theme throughout-God's plan of salvation from sin won for the whole world by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This consistency itself attests to the miracle of this book.
Its mere endurance speaks for itself. For thousands of years people have explored every nook and cranny of the Bible. Alleged difficulties have been systematically answered. Upon examination, there are no errors or contradictions in the Bible. (A good reference is When Critics Ask, A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties, by Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe.)
Moreover, part of the testimony of the Bible's power and truth is the evidence of changed history and changed human lives. The Bible has answers for today's problems. The relevance of biblical truths becomes evident to those who study it. People become convicted and changed.
The more one studies without bias the teachings found in the Bible, the more he or she will see that they conform to the truths of experience and human nature. It is just as powerful to the lives of people today as to those thousands of years ago.
The Bible has proven to be trustworthy, powerful, and significant.
But is the Bible really "God's Word?"
The historic Christian church's faith in the infallibility of Scripture (in the original manuscripts) is established on the basis of Christ's view of Scripture. The evidence of its reliability and power further supports the belief in the Bible's infallibility, and that its origin must be divine rather than human.
Norman Geisler (in the Halverson book listed in the resource section) lists these criteria for establishing if a book was from God: (1) It would claim to be God's Word. (2) It would be historically accurate when it speaks on historical matters. (3) The authors would be trustworthy. (4) The book would be thematically unified and without contradictions. (5) We would have received accurate copies of the original manuscripts. (6) It would make statements that would reveal knowledge about the way things work beyond the knowledge of its day. (7) It would make predictions about the future that could not be known through natural means. (8) The message would be unique. (9) The messengers would be confirmed by miracles. (10) The words would have a transforming power.
Only the Bible meets these tests. If there is, in fact, an all-sovereign, loving God, is it not reasonable for Him to have left us a guide book as an insight to Him?
Or consider this logic: The Bible speaks of condemnation of all people as sinners. Would individuals have written these words, thus condemning themselves?
It is helpful to appreciate that the Bible, while truly divinely inspired, is a human book with human characteristics, human perspectives, human interests, human thought patterns and emotions. And when interpreting the Bible, "Scripture interprets Scripture." All passages on a topic should be analyzed together, along with the context of the passages. We should keep in mind that the Bible uses different literary devices, including poetry, parables, hyperbole, allegories, case studies, satire, metaphors and other figures of speech.
Like other human communication, the Bible should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. We should not assume that the unexplained is not explainable. We should not confuse our fallible interpretation with God's infallible revelation.
Over time, what the Bible says has been largely verified as accurate and worthy of trust. This gives us confidence that the things it says that are more difficult to verify, are also true. If someone continually makes statements to you that you can check out and verify, you will grow to have confidence that other things he says are true as well.
Christians are confident that one's belief in the Bible as the final authority for faith and life is documented and well founded. This conclusion has never been more valid in all of history than it is today.
How do you square Jesus' miracles with reality?
Miracles do happen, even today. Just because there is no known answer for something, doesn't negate that it is true. Scientists are constantly revising their understanding of the world. For example, over the years, many "new" planets and stars have been discovered. But their existence was just as real before their discovery as after.
There is a limit to scientific knowledge, as there are many phenomena that scientists cannot explain. Further, we submit that there are things that scientists claim to understand which really represent nothing more than observation, naming, or manipulation-not true understanding. Given the magnificence and complexity of life and the universe itself, it is incredibly arrogant of a mortal person to dismiss the unknowable as impossible.
To say miracles are difficult to explain scientifically is one thing, but to say they can't happen is another. The investigation of alleged miracles must be an historical investigation rather than a purely scientific one.
Other miracles pale in comparison to the resurrection of Jesus. If the resurrection is a fact of history, the other miracles are not hard to swallow. Christians absolutely believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ.
In order to confirm by way of proof the resurrection event, one can apply the same principles of evidence that would be acceptable as proof in a court of law. Many scholars in history have done so.
The evidence for Jesus' death and resurrection is overwhelming. The New Testament contains six independent testimonies to the fact of the resurrection. These six men (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, and Paul) wrote 24 of the 27 books of the New Testament. Included in their testimonies are various eyewitness accounts as well as reports of other interviewed witnesses of the risen Jesus, including one of over 500 people at one time.
Were these witnesses credible? Critical minds who have considered their testimony point out that these witnesses were both competent and honest. For example, they had no impure motives for their testimony, such as fear, money, or ambition. They had the opportunity to know the truth, were mentally capable, were not gullible, and the documents of their testimony are reliable. There was more than an adequate number of witnesses to verify truth. And there is no contrary evidence.
Simon Greenleaf, Professor of law at Harvard from 1833 to 1848 has been called the greatest authority on legal evidences in the history of the world. When Greenleaf applied legal evidences to the resurrection event, he concluded that it was an historical reality, and that anyone who examined the evidence for it honestly would be convinced this was the case.
In the 1930s a British journalist who was trained in the law, named Frank Morrison, set out to do the world a favor by once and for all exposing the superstition of Christ's resurrection. However, by using the test of evidence permitted in a court of law, he became convicted against his will of the truth of the resurrection, and detailed his findings in a book still in print entitled Who Moved the Stone.
In the 1990's, an American journalist, also trained in the law, by the name of Lee Strobel, interviewed many biblical scholars in a similar quest. His book The Case for Christ is a brilliant summary of the best modern scholarship on the subject. His study once again confirmed the biblical accounts as factual. (See resource list.)
C. S. Lewis, Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, acknowledged that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was a major factor in his conversion from atheism. Lewis became one of the twentieth century's greatest intellectual Christian proponents and writers. (See resource list.)
Lord Darling, former Chief Justice of England said that, "...no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true."
The claim that the testimonies of the New Testament writers were "cooked up" does not hold water. The evidence against a "cooked up" Gospel is that while the various accounts are not contradictory, there are enough differences in the reports that it is clear that the various writers did not get together to compare notes. The evidence unquestioningly supports that the various accounts are truly independent.
Perhaps the most powerful evidence is the sheer conviction of the disciples. For 40 years after the resurrection, these men traveled throughout the land telling what they knew to be true. All of them were persecuted and all but one eventually put to death for their faith as testimony to the resurrected Jesus. People simply will not martyr themselves for what they believe to be a lie. People will only give their life for what they are absolutely convinced is true.
Many of the religious and political leaders of the day had every reason to quell the Christian movement by refuting the resurrection testimony. They were unable to disprove it. John R. W. Stott (see book on resource list) insists that the silence of Christ's enemies "is as eloquent a proof of the resurrection as the apostles' witness."
The early Christian leaders were not a superstitious people, unable to determine truth from reality. They lived in a civilized world of sophisticated Greek and Roman culture. These men were fishermen, carpenters, a physician (Luke), etc., and certainly understood the laws of nature. They attested to the miracles of Jesus in that framework.
Science does not disprove biblical miracles. Science depends upon observation and replication. Miracles are by their very nature unprecedented events. No one can replicate these events in a laboratory. Hence, science simply cannot be judge and jury as to whether or not these events occurred. The scientific method is useful for studying nature but not super-nature.
Biblical miracles are rare but poignant. The real question is not whether miracles occur, but whether God exists. If God exists, then miracles are possible. Anti-supernaturalism is atheism
How can you say that Jesus is God?
Even given the evidence for the resurrection, many still ask: "Sure, Jesus was a great moral teacher, but could He truly be God?"
Jesus clearly claimed to be God (John 8:58 [ref. Exodus 3:14], 10:25-38, 12:44-45, also Matthew 10:40, 28:18, Mark 14:60-62 [ref. Daniel 7:13-14], Luke 5:20-26, 6:50, 10:16, John 2:18-22, 5:17-23, 8:23, 13:13,19-20, 14:6-11, 17:5, Revelation 1:8, 22:12-13,16). Given this, there are three possibilities as to His identity. Either Jesus was (a) a liar, (b) a lunatic, or (c) who he claimed to beŚLord God.
If Jesus is a liar, then He has deceived more people than any other human. He could not be the greatest liar who ever lived and also be a great moral teacher. His character is evidence of a person of absolute virtue and integrity. His instruction was pure and profound. He was not a liar.
When reading the words of Jesus, one is struck not only by His sheer intelligence but even more by his authority. O. Quentin Hyder, a practicing psychiatrist in New York City, analyzed the records of Jesus' behavior, personality and relationships for symptoms of psychiatric disorders. He said that the evidence does not support the notion that Jesus was a lunatic. Hyder concluded by saying: "A person is free to maintain that Jesus, out of honest delusion, made His claim to deity. But if one takes this position, he does so without any psychological evidence in its support and considerable evidence to contrary."
Jesus lived a sinless, perfect life. His closest companions confirmed this (1 Peter 1:18-19, 2:21-24, Acts 10:38, 1 John 2:1, 3:5). Even His enemies, those who betrayed and crucified Him, acknowledged His perfect life (Matthew 27:3-4; Luke 23:14-15). As the most influential person who ever lived, history is measured from Jesus' life. His words, His character, and His influence all attest that Jesus was more than a mortal man.
Most people readily admit to Jesus' status as a great moral teacher. We submit that it is inconsistent to admit to Jesus' stature as a great teacher and not believe what He taught. Jesus taught His own deity. He claimed to be God and proved it through His resurrection.
Scripture records that, in time, the apostles fully accepted Christ's claims of deity (Matthew 1:23, 22:41-46, 25:31, Mark 1:2-3 [ref. Isaiah 40:3], 1:27, 13:31 [ref. Isaiah 40:8], Luke 2:11 [ref. Isaiah 9:6], John 1:1-4, 14, 20:24-31, Acts 2:36, Romans 9:5, Philippians 2:6, Colossians 1:13-19, 2:9, 1 Timothy 3:16, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:2-13, 2 Peter 1:1, 1 John 5:20).
Jesus has all the attributes of deity, including omnipotence (Matthew 28:18), omniscience (John 1:48), omnipresence (Matthew 18:20). He did the works of deity such as creation (John 1:3) and raising the dead (John 11:43-44). And he was worshipped as deity (Matthew 14:33).
Read the four biographies of Jesus, that is, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Decide for yourself whether Jesus really was who he claimed to be.
If Jesus was who He said He was, you and I are under judgment. If we say He was not God, we must somehow reconcile Jesus' message, the evidence, and much of history.
Historically, we can be as certain of what we read about Christ in the Bible as almost any other recorded event. Refusing to believe in Jesus is not because of a lack of evidence. Refusing to believe can only be because we thumb our nose at God, or that we are unwilling to change. People reject Jesus because of moral reasons, not intellectual ones.