Christianity 201

August 26, 2015

Why Choose Christianity?

 Acts 26:1 ESV So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:

“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently…

Why Choose Christianity and Not Something Else? Or Nothing Else?

2295355354_e65354babd_nby Clarke Dixon

Why would we choose to be a Christian and not something else? Why follow Jesus when there are so many other options including an attempt at following no one? With so many religions, how can we settle on one, or should we even settle on one? One answer appeals to the tension that exists between naturalistic explanations and supernatural explanations.

There are perfectly good explanations for how the vast majority of religions arose, explanations which make no appeal to the supernatural. For example, it is not hard to see how ancient myths involving a pantheon of gods arose out of need to understand things beyond understanding. Bad things happen because the gods are angry, sometimes at humans, sometimes at each other. As understanding increased, the gods were pushed out as being not a very good explanation of the facts. The naturalistic explanation, saying “men came up with myths about Zeus and others” fits all the data we have available much better than an appeal to a supernatural explanation; “men spoke about Zeus and the rest because those gods were real.” Similarly, to say “Islam arose because Muhammad was impressed with neither the people nor theology of Jews and Christians and so founded his own religion” fits all the data available better than “Islam exists because Allah revealed himself to Muhammad.”  We can follow similar lines of reasoning for 99% of all the world’s religions. In this sense, atheism is a powerful ally to Christianity for the atheists help us make the case for why we reject the vast majority of religions. We should note that in fact the early Christians were accused of spreading atheism! They were going around saying that all idols and myths were human invention.

However, for Christianity, the supernatural explanation provides a better explanation of all the available facts than the naturalist explanation. To give some examples:

  • The supernatural explanation accounts for the amazing consistency of the Biblical message despite the many authors writing over many, many years, from different contexts, writing for different purposes. There is a simple explanation of this: the scriptures are “God breathed.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for why people in the days following the death of Jesus were going around saying “Jesus is risen, I have seen him” and were willing to die for that claim. Appeals to hallucinations and/or fabrications do not account for the facts very well.
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for sudden birth and rise of an unexpected Christianity theology. The theology of Christianity is not what you would expect from Jewish scriptures and expectations, but it is what you would expect from Jewish scriptures and expectations plus the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for the staying power of Christianity and why so many people over so many years have some claim of a personal relationship with God through Jesus. The Christian message was not popular to either Jews or non-Jews from the get go. And yet it caught fire and continues to do so today despite still being unpopular to the point of persecution throughout the world. Yes, other religions have had staying power also, but you can come up with naturalistic explanations for this. Christianity would have died out ages ago if God were not in it.
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for the big questions like “Why is there something rather than nothing? Why is there life when the odds are against there being such? How did the universe get started? Why is there something startlingly different about humans compared with other animals? Why is there such a strong yearning for purpose among humans? Why do humans reflect on morality so much? Why is there evil and what can be done about it?” Naturalism struggles to explain what Christianity simply and  profoundly answers.

Within the Bible itself we find an example of this tension between a natural and supernatural explanation. In Acts 26 Paul shares with King Agrippa, the local governor Festus, and many others how he came to be a Christ follower including his experience of the risen Jesus. But at some point Festus has had enough: “And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.’” (Acts 26:24) With that Paul says “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.” (Acts 26:25) Here we have a tension between a naturalistic explanation given by Festus; ”Paul, you are mad, no gods here,” and a supernatural explanation from Paul: ”Jesus appeared to and spoke with me.” Paul could have gone for a naturalistic explanation himself “perhaps the stress is getting to me and so I had some sort of hallucination.” However any naturalistic explanation could not fit all the facts, including the fact that his companions experienced something also, “we had all fallen to the ground,” (Acts 26:14) not to mention Paul’s further experience of regaining sight through the ministry of a Christian (Acts 9:10-19). No naturalistic view could account for these things.

So why Christianity and not another religion, or no religion? Why follow Jesus and not someone else, or no one else? Because Jesus rose from the dead, because Christianity is true. That Jesus rose from the dead and that Christianity is true makes the best sense of the all the facts we have. Yes there are naturalistic explanations offered for the rise and spread of Christianity and they are many, diverse, and complicated. But there is a simple explanation that covers all the facts, the supernatural one; Jesus rose from the dead. How should we respond when people say we are crazy for believing in the supernatural? Just like Paul did with Festus: “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.” (Acts 26:25)

There is one more thing we should mention about all this. There is no religious perspective that if found to be true could offer more hope, both for this life and the next, for more people, than Christianity. That Jesus rose from the dead and Christianity is true is not just a rational conclusion, it provides for an amazing hope in God’s amazing grace.

All Bible references are taken from the ESV.
photo credit: Interfaith Banner via photopin (license)

November 14, 2013

System Status Check

NLT – II Cor. 13:5 Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. As you test yourselves, I hope you will recognize that we have not failed the test of apostolic authority.

The Message – II Cor. 13:5-9 Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it. I hope the test won’t show that we have failed. But if it comes to that, we’d rather the test showed our failure than yours. We’re rooting for the truth to win out in you. We couldn’t possibly do otherwise.

CEB – Jude 1:3 Dear friends, I wanted very much to write to you concerning the salvation we share. Instead, I must write to urge you to fight for the faith delivered once and for all to God’s holy people. Godless people have slipped in among you…

NASB – Jude 1:3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to thesaints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed…

Every once in awhile, I believe Christ-followers need to perform a system check. We need to run a diagnostic of all our closely-held doctrines. We need to test our faith against the Bible and against what the church has historically held as orthodox theology.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this stems from a study of one of the ‘marginal’ groups which is sometimes thought of as ‘Christian.’ While this group has a number of tenets that would easily identify them if I listed them here, the one that struck me as most disturbing was the idea of new light. Their head office is constantly releasing new documents which the faithful are required to study and learn. Shockingly, each new document potentially supersedes all that have come before it.

This creates a number of problems, not the least of which is: If you hold to their beliefs and then new light revises that teaching and you do not change as the teaching changes, you can be considered apostate for believing things that were perfectly acceptable just days before.

Another interesting point I heard was this: If a person did not have access to this group’s teachings and simply read their Bible, is there anything they would read in the Bible that would point them toward the same conclusions as this group? Of course the answer is a definite no. The Bible does not lead one toward such doctrinal positions.

Interestingly enough, all this happened a day after another conversation concerning another group which bases much of its teachings on prophetic words from its members. This is far less authoritarian, since anyone who is part of the group can issue forth words which become as binding as core doctrines; and it’s a more Charismatic-flavored version of the other, which is more formal.

But many of the spoken prophecies do not line up with scripture. So the person who told me about this group said he is constantly asking, “Where’s that in the Bible?” “Where’s that in the Bible?” “Where’s that in the Bible.”

The difference is that the first group bases their updates on revisions to their interpretation of the Bible, whereas the second group doesn’t even try to confirm prophetic words with scripture.

That’s why Paul in today’s opening verse, urges the Corinthians to check him out, to engage critical thinking, to verify his words against external standards.

We need to always be doing the same.

ESV- Matt. 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (emphasis added)


C201 is always looking for both submissions and suggestions for sources of material. Use the submissions page in the margin.

Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

October 19, 2012

Going Against The Flow; Swimming Against The Tide

Another Canadian blogger, Kim Shay posted this quotation from Martin Luther recently at her blog, The Upward Call. I can’t begin to imagine the conflict Luther would have felt has he formulated beliefs that went totally against everything commonly held. This from the Faith Alone devotional collection:

Trusting Christ Instead of People

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them
for he knew all men
John 2:24


No one understands how difficult it was when I first realized that I had to believe and teach an idea that was contrary to the teaching of the church fathers. This was especially shocking to me when many outstanding, reasonable, and educated people shared their views. The church fathers include many holy people, such as Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine. Despite that, my dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ must be worth more to me than all the holy people on earth – yes, even more than all the angels in heaven. When I read Augustine’s books and discovered that he also had been in error, I was greatly troubled. Whenever this happens, it’s very difficult for me to calm my own hart and differ with people who are so greatly respected.

But I dare not accept something just because a respected person says it. A person can be holy and God-fearing and still be in error. That’s why I don’t want to rely on people. As this passage says, the Lord Christ didn’t rely on people either. Furthermore, in the book of Matthew, Jesus earnestly warns us to beware of false prophets, who will come and not only claim to be Christians, but also “perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible (24:24).

Rather than trusting the church fathers and their writings, we should crawl under the wings of our mother hen, the Lord Christ, and look to him alone. the heavenly Father said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well-pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5). God wants us to listen to Christ alone.


Here’s a bonus Faith Alone devotional from Luther that appeared a week prior at Kim’s blog.

The Lamb of God

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him
and said, “Look, the Lamb of God
who takes away the sin of the world!”
John 1:29


God’s laws tell us how we should live. They command us: “Never desire to take your neighbor’s wife. Never murder. Never commit adultery. Give to the poor.” It’s good to follow God’s laws in order to guard against outward sins. Before God, however, it won’t work to try to get rid of sin by obeying God’s laws. What does work is stated in this verse: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Isaiah explains that “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6) and “for the transgression of my people he was stricken” (v.8). Everything points to Christ.

As a Christian, you should hold tightly to these words and not let them be taken away from you. Then you will know that godless people and religious people who hope to satisfy God with their pilgrimages and good works are blind. Many boast of the good works and console themselves by thinking they will get a second chance to be saved. The Holy Scripture, in contrast, says that the sins of the world aren’t laid on the world. John’s sins weren’t laid on John, and Peter’s sins weren’t laid on Peter, for no one can bear their own sins. Rather, the sins of the world were laid on Christ. He is the Lamb of God. He stepped forward to become a sinner for us, to become even sin itself, and to act as though he had committed the sins of the entire world from the beginning of its creation (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Lamb’s mission, role, and function were to take away the sins of the world. The Lamb carried them all.

July 9, 2012

True Versus Truth

Charles Price is the senior pastor of The Peoples’ Church, Toronto — once Canada’s one and only megachurch — and the host of the Living Truth TV and radio broadcasts. Charles is a the former head of Capernwray in the U.K. and author of several books.

1The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 11Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. ~ Hebrews 10: 1, 11-12 (NIV)

TrainTimetableExtract2

The message that came through the prophets, through the priests, through the angels and through Moses was all true but it was not the truth. Remember Jesus, in the upper room said “I am the truth.” John 14:6 records Jesus saying, “I am the way and the truth.” These previous messengers spoke truth, but Jesus was the truth.

Perhaps you travel frequently by train. You may have a timetable that tells you a train will leave the station and ten o’clock on Saturday morning and arrive at your destination at two fifteen. That may be true, and if you’re planning to catch the train, you hope it is — but the timetable, although it’s true, is not the truth. The timetable bears witness to the truth. What is the truth? The truth is the train. A timetable won’t get you anywhere. You can read the timetable, underline it, memorize it, sing it: it won’t get you anywhere. It’s true, but it’s only true in the sense that it bears witness to the truth which is the train. That’s the truth, that’s what the timetable is talking about. God’s revelation through the prophets, through the priests, through angels, through Moses is true but it’s like the timetable, which is pointing to the train.

I could paraphrase Hebrews 1:1 “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the timetable at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He’s given us the train.” Does that make sense? Everything that went before, pointed to Christ, but it didn’t take you anywhere. The priests could tell the people there was someone to go to, but they could not take them because the message of the Old Testament is that one day the train is going to pull into the station. But the problem is that when the train came, they did not receive him. They did not catch the train.

There’s nothing wrong with the law at all, but it’s only a shadow, it’s not the substance, it’s the timetable, it’s not the train. It won’t get you anywhere as Hebrews 10:1 explains: “it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.” Was it a waste of time? No, it was preparing people for what was coming.

One day the train will come.

Charles Price writing in the Our Journey
devotional booklet for August 2, 2009

June 28, 2012

Apologetics in Action

I hope none of you feel cheated when I use a video post instead of text, but today I’ve actually got two for you.

The first is Ravi Zacharias shown at his best, taking questions from the audience during what I presume to be a university appearance.  This one is on the subject, ‘Are people born to be good or born to be evil?’

Do you feel Ravi answered her question? Or was he trying to answer, ‘the question behind the question?’

The second one is an audio reading from C. S. Lewis.  It’s a really great explanation of how God can permit free will even though within the range of that free will we choose that which is not God’s ‘will’ for us.

I would like to be able to memorize this (in more contemporary language) to the point where I was able to present this to others. I’ve listened to it three times now, but would next need to take notes to follow the logic of the presentation.

Interesting enough, the Lewis clip was posted to YouTube on the channel ‘Islamic Worldview.’

I Peter 3:15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. (NLT)


Here’s a previous edition of Apologetics in Action from December, 2011.

… And almost exactly a year ago, we featured a number of Ravi Zacharias Quotations.

…Finally from January, 2011, C. S. Lewis on Life, Atheism and God.