"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!" shouts Charlie Brown in frustration. This is Linus' answer:

Linus is quoting the Gospel of Luke chapter 2 … but what reason do we have for believing it? If this message is true, it's certainly the greatest and most important message we'll ever hear. If we have good reasons to trust what the biblical authors wrote, then it would seem reasonable (given the incredible, life-changing meaning of the message) to accept it, nay, embrace it. My short free e-book gives some reasons to believe it's actually true: The Historical Reliability of the New Testament.

But perhaps the more common hindrances to faith are not the intellectual concerns, they are instead the "heart" objections. Before I became a Christian, I wrestled with many of these. "I'll have to admit I've been wrong for the first 20-something years of my life!" I thought. (It's never easy for me to admit when I'm wrong.) I also wondered how my family and friends would react, since most of them are not Christian. And then there was the life changes issue … would I have to give up some of the "sin" I enjoyed?

Well, let me tell you. It does take a mature person to admit they were wrong. It's not always easy talking to friends and family about faith issues. And giving up sin, even when it seems distasteful and wrong … well, frankly it's not always easy. But the all-surpassing joy of knowing Jesus, of knowing God's love and the paradoxical freedom of growing deeper in that love, makes it all worthwhile.

If you're contemplating these issues, or are perhaps considering such things seriously for the first time, you may want to consider reading True or False: Doubters Welcome … or checking out the short flash video about Jesus. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas holiday! Remember, there is reason for the season!

O RLY?A great blog by Tom Gilson, Thinking Christian, has an equally great post dismantling a Washington Post article that epitomizes the double-standard of "tolerance" applied against the Christian faith (and often other faiths too, but most often the Christian faith) in modern western society:

“All Beliefs Welcome, Unless They are Forced on Others”

There is a weasel word used here: "forced". The original article title mentions "forcing" beliefs on others, while the article itself is really talking about when people "take their theology out in public". Of course we would never want anyone to try to "force" their religious beliefs; but what's wrong with sharing our faith (in love) with others?

If Christians truly believe we have found the greatest love, greatest hope, and greatest truth in the world, why would it be wrong to winsomely share that faith? I might argue it would in fact be wrong to keep such a wonderful thing secretly to ourselves!

Bertrand Russell was reportedly once asked what he would say to God if he were to find himself confronted by the Almighty about why he had not believed in God's existence. He said that he would tell God "Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence!" [Source: Victor Reppert, "Hume on Miracles, Frequencies, and Prior Probabilities"]

Recently in an online discussion regarding the reliability of the New Testament, I asked a person engaged in the discussion the following question: "Let's say, after a few more months on this forum, that your questions regarding the Christian faith and God were answered beyond a reasonable doubt. Not utterly completely proven 100%, but at least plausibly answered. Would you then put your faith and trust in God?"

His reply surprised me: "No, probably not." He went on to list some of his objections (and straw-man characterizations of Christian beliefs) before concluding that "even if you did manage all that and managed to drive me insane enough to believe in an invisible man in the sky, my common sense would just tell me that that is impossible." [Thread on SCAE]

I thought back to Russell's response quoted above. Ignoring for a moment the question of "How much evidence is needed?" that is discussed at length in the linked article, I have to wonder about the honesty of Russell's response. Let's paint the scenario: Russell has spent his life arguing that God does not exist, and especially not the Christian God. Now he stands before this God and has been proven utterly and totally wrong. This just, holy, righteous, omnipotent, omniscient, and awe-inspiring God stands before Russell and asks him the question. Instead of being humbled, Hume says he'd flippantly respond by saying "Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence!"

HomerGiven that (in the scenario) God is omniscient, it seems silly to assert that God hadn't provided enough evidence. Wouldn't God know better than Russell how much evidence was needed? Wouldn't it be slightly insane to tell the almighty God of the universe to His face that you know better than Him?

Christians are often branded as being "closedminded" (sometimes for good reason) but often atheists or members of other non-Christian faiths are just as closedminded.

As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. During my conversation with an Internet friend mentioned above, I decided to break off the conversation at that point. When a person states that they will continue to refuse to believe something even if they become convinced that it is true (!) there's not much point in talking anymore.

Of course, to be fair, this situtation somewhat paraellels my own story, when I first became convinced that Christianity was true, but still wasn't quite able to take that final step of faith (trust) right away. This is why I think that often issues of faith are, primarily, heart issues rather than head issues; intellectual objections are often legitimate and worthy of discussion, but in reality those sorts of questions merely scratch the surface while a person's actual underlying concerns go much deeper.

The title of Thomas Harris' still popular book "I'm OK, You're OK" came to mind today. (I can almost hear my high school English prof: "OK is not a word! The word is spelled OKAY!") I have never read the book, but according to the always reliable (*coughs*) Wikipedia entry (linked above) the four basic "life positions" explained in the book are:

  1. I'm Not OK, You're OK
  2. I'm Not OK, You're Not OK
  3. I'm OK, You're Not OK
  4. I'm OK, You're OK

Which of these life positions best describes the various world religions?

One of the most prevalent today, IMHO, especially in secular society, is #4: I'm OK, You're OK. This is the pluralist approach … all roads lead to Rome, all paths lead to the top of the mountain, etc. "You believe in and worship Jesus?" someone might say, "That's great … for you." Or "You believe in Muhammad, Krishna, or Adi Da? Wonderful … for you." This life position often takes the colloquialism "Whatever makes you happy …" Of course, even here there are limits … ex, "You believe and worship Satan? … Um. That's … um, great … *cough* … <changes subject>"

#1 is less prevalent but still abounds: I'm Not OK, You're OK. This is a self-depreciating position. It imagines that everyone else is good, and I am markedly inferior to them. I must admit sometimes I fall into this sort of thinking myself, and this sort of unhealthy guilt is sometimes unfortunately common in Christian circles. After all, doesn't the Bible even say "consider others better than yourselves"? (Philippians 2:3) More on that in a moment.

#3 is also prevalent: I'm OK, You're Not OK. In fact, this is the view of most religions in the world. There is a specific set of requirements that you must pass in order to qualify. If you do those things, you pass the test and are "in". If you, for example, pray the confession, pray five times a day, tithe 2.5%, fast, and go on the pilgrimage, you're in! At least, pretty sure you're in. Kinda sure. Well you don't really know but you hope you are. And this view is seen as being pretty "intolerant" and not at all politically correct, not to mention it's not exactly very humble.

#2 is probably the least prevalent: I'm Not OK, You're Not OK. This, in fact, is the view of biblical Christianity, where we read that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves" (1 John 1:8) … moreover, "everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8:34). Wow! Isn't that just excessively negative?

Actually, I'd say #2 is accurate. Real Christianity does not encourage people to wallow in self-pity or negativity, nor is it encouraged to gloss over our sins and failings, nor is it taught to think we're "all that" (OK) and point the finger at others (not OK). Instead it recognizes that we're all in the same boat. At least, initially.

The full text of the verse which contains the previous quotation ("consider others better than yourselves") actually reads "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." When we are honest with ourselves, we know that we don't even meet our own self-imposed standards of morality. (See "Good People?" for more about that.) How much more do we not live up to God's standards?

But that is only stating the problem. God also provides the solution: Jesus. Christianity is utterly unique in that we are not saved because we are "OK". We are saved by our acceptance of the fact that we are NOT, and our acceptance of the One who is strong enough, and merciful enough, to carry the weight for us that we cannot bear on our own, as Paul explains: "God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." (Romans 5:8)

Are we all OK? No. We're all NOT. As John Piper might say, "John Piper … is … bad!" And that includes me. But I hope I never become complacent in remembering the price that Christ paid for my freedom from sin, not by my own works that I might become conceited and prideful, but instead entirely by the grace of God. And that makes the Christian message unique, and uniquely true, among all world religions and "life positions".


(Image credit: striatic, who of course does not necessarily endorse any of the content of this post!)

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