There are Good Reasons to Doubt Christianity

8 May

Don’t worry I’m not packing it in on Jesus!  Nonetheless the above statement is true.  You can be a perfectly reasonable person and either be a Christian or not a Christian.  A perfectly reasonable person could conclude that the central claim of Christianity that Jesus is the Messiah Christ who rose from the dead is false, given that the ‘laws of nature’ broadly understood suggest ‘Dead people don’t come back from the dead.’  On the other hand, another perfectly reasonable person could conclude that given God has created this beautiful and amazingly complex world out of nothing, then raising a man from the dead is hardly surprising and is consistent with the sort of thing He’s done many times before.

In other words, becoming a Christian is not a matter of reason, it’s a matter of evidence!

Look at the apostle’s Thomas’ reaction to the news of Jesus’ resurrection in John 20.

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Nothing in Thomas’s view of the world made him think that the report of the resurrection of Jesus was true.   For him It was easier to believe that those who told him the news were sadly misguided or deluded.

Now remember Thomas was not ancient Richard Dawkins: Thomas had witnessed miracles and had heard the teaching of Jesus and had even been prepared to die with him. But still he cannot see. He makes his demand for tangible proof of the risen Jesus because he cannot think of a circumstance in which he might ever have to place his fingers in the wounds of Jesus.  Who would want to do that?

We often think of Thomas as the ultimate empiricist (that is, a person who says: ‘I won’t believe unless I see’) but really he is a thoroughgoing rationalist, because he knows already, or thinks he knows, what he can’t possibly ever see.   By a rationalist I mean that he has a theory of how the world operates that cannot be changed and that determines how he believes things.

Our theories act like great filters for our experience of things – and they are a convenient way for us to deal with all manner of information in a way that we can quickly organise and understand it and deal with it in the world. An example of such a theory would be the Scottish philosopher David Hume’s principle ‘that the laws of nature are never broken’. It is a fine sounding principle.  But if a law of nature – such as dead man rising – were ever to occur, you would be unable to see it, because your theory had already determined beforehand that such things do not occur.  The theory might just screen out a reality.

This is very much how the beliefs of the New Atheists and the other cultured despisers of Christianity of our time work. They tend to fly under the cover of the authority of empirical science, which gains its power from dealing with what is there in front of its face. That’s why it can describe the world so well – it must deal with what is in the test tube, and not with what is only there in theory. But when they dip their toes into philosophical and theological waters, they become for the most part dependent on their theories.  God isn’t part of the theory, so God must go.

But Christianity is not a philosophy or a theory. It is a historical faith – which doesn’t mean that it belongs in a museum, but rather that it begins with what God actually does rather than what human beings feel he ought to do. 

Whenever I talk to someone about Jesus I plead with them to explore with me the historical evidence for Jesus’ claims in the historical record, mainly in the bible but also outside of it.  The evidence for Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is overwhelming (it’s why we are Christians!).  Now of course this raises other questions like: Can we trust the bible?  And again the evidence is there for those with eyes to see.  

In the end it’s true that two perfectly reasonable people could come to different conclusions on Jesus based on their own reason and experiences.  However, I believe the historical evidence only points us in one direction.  That’s a decision we all need to make.  It’s a decision that you can only make if you’ve checked out the evidence.

Luther Symons

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