Can You Really be a Christian Without Going to Church?

We live in a culture of autonomy. It’s in the fabric of our culture for us to seek to be left alone to pursue whatever has our attention and to avoid anyone who might slow us down. That’s probably the reason it’s so common to hear to someone explain that he does not go to church for any number of reasons followed by the reminder, “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” But is that true? Of course, there’s some validity to the claim – our salvation is not based on our church attendance – but I am most interested to ask that person, “Why do you not want to go to church?” You see, not going to church definitely does not disqualify a person from being a Christian, but his reasons for not going to church very well could.

Not going to church definitely does not disqualify a person from being a Christian, but his reasons for not going to church very well could.

Some would argue that the Bible never says that Christians must attend church and I will concede that point. However, I would also remind those people that almost all of the New Testament epistles were written to local churches, so the letters were written with the assumption that everyone reading the letters would have already Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 3.58.51 PM.pngbeen involved in their local church. That means that there would have been no reason for any of the apostles to give a mandate for his readers to be a part of the local church! If that isn’t enough, then we should remember that there are 59 different “one another” statements in the New Testament. Those statements give Christians instructions about how they should live with “one another.” How would it be possible for a Christian to understand those 59 passages of Scripture without acknowledging the apostles’ assumption that Christians were already living in community with one another? In addition, how can a Christian obey those passages if he refuses to live in community with other Christians? It’s undeniable that the connection of the Christian to the local church is a basic assumption that is laced throughout the entire New Testament.

So what are the real reasons that you do not want to connect to the church? Is it because it’s full of hypocrites? If so, then I would ask, “Do you think it would be difficult for anyone to look at your life and find areas where you do not resemble the perfect Christian?” If there are any areas in your life where you miss the mark of being the perfect Christian, then you’ll fit in perfectly among the hypocrites at church! We welcome you! Maybe you don’t want to go because you’ve been hurt by people at church in the past. I ask, “Have you ever hurt anyone?” Perfect! The church has a place for you! The church is by its very nature full of people who openly admit to Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 4.10.46 PM.pngfalling short, which is the reason we know that we need Jesus. It seems a curious thing that anyone claiming to be Christian would want to keep from living in community with other Christians. In every other facet of our lives we seek to surround ourselves with people who share our common interests, priorities, goals, etc. The Bible tells us that the very nature of being a Christian is that we die to ourselves and take up a completely new identity in Christ (Galatians 2:20). If that is true then why would a Christian not want to be involved in a church where there are other Christians? They have the same identity! It makes absolutely no sense to disparage the local church while claiming to have the exact same identity as the people who are there.

It makes no sense to disparage the local church while claiming to have the exact same identity as the people who are there.

Perhaps it’s most important to remember that the Bible teaches that Christ’s love and devotion to the Church is similar to the love and devotion that is supposed to be found between husbands and wives (Ephesians 5:22-30). As a husband to Brittni, I can confidently say that anyone who claims to love me must also love Brittni. If you slander my wife, or refuse to eat with her, then my relationship with you will be nonexistent. My love for her does not leave any room for me to embrace anyone who would look down upon her. To be honest, my love for her would even make it very difficult for me to be connected at a meaningful level to anyone who is even indifferent towards her. I think the same could be said to the person who disparages the Church while claiming to be a Christian. Is it really possible to claim authentic love and allegiance to Jesus while at the same time disparaging and ignoring his bride? If you love Jesus, then you must also love his bride.

Anyone can point fingers at the church and draw attention to the areas where she fails. It shouldn’t be difficult to find such failures when we consider that the church is totally comprised of fallen people. The challenge is not to point out her weaknesses. The challenge is to be a part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) and to contribute by building up her areas of weakness, yet that runs contrary to Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 4.02.12 PM.pnganother aspect of our culture – consumerism. Consumerism doesn’t seek to give but to get. In contrast to consumerism, 1 John 3:16 tells us that we cannot love as Christ loves without giving our lives for our brothers and sisters (i.e. those within the Church). So, yes, you can technically be a Christian without going to church, but it’s a difficult case to make that you can remain an autonomous and consumeristic Christian with no desire to change in conformity to Christ’s image (Romans 8:29). Let’s remember that the term Christian means Christ-like and that Jesus was not autonomous in nature nor was he a consumer. Instead, he was the exact opposite both. So how would you say someone remain autonomous and consumeristic and still claim to be Christ-like? It’s a tough sell to make.

If you’re that person who claims to be a Christian while refusing to be a part of a local church, then I hope you’ll do two things. First, I hope you’ll do an honest self-evaluation of your life to see if you are truly a Christian, or if you are one by title only, which could explain why you have no desire to be a part of a church. Second, regardless of what your self-evaluation reveals, I pray that you’ll find a local church to join.

Alex Deaton and the San Bernardino Terrorist – A Common Enemy

From last weekend until early this week, a statewide manhunt, in Mississippi, for Alex Deaton turned into a nationwide manhunt. Alex first used his hands to kill his ex-girlfriend then he went on what appears to have been a random shooting spree throughout several states. He killed several people before he was finally apprehended in Kansas. As the manhunt continued I viewed Alex’s Facebook page to see what I could learn about him and I noticed something that raised my eyebrows. It appears that he was as common of an American guy as they make – complete with a daughter he seemed to love, tribal tattoos, and a Harley Davidson. He definitely didn’t seem depressed, murderous, insane, or even on the path to becoming as such. Yet I couldn’t help but find irony as I considered his ongoing crime spree alongside one of the memes founds on his page.

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I’m not going to spend time discussing the ignorance of that meme, or the false dichotomy that the meme makes between Muslims and Americans, as though a Muslim cannot at the same time be an American, nor will I discuss the fact that the gunman who the meme seems to reference (the San Bernardino shooter) was an American born citizen. What I think is most worthy of consideration is the fact that the same murderer was responsible for the instances in Mississippi and San Bernardino, even though he used two different people from two different ethnic backgrounds, two different religious professions, and two different skin tones to commit his deplorable actions.

As Americans, or maybe just as humans in general, we spend so much time blaming other religions, races, and nationalities for the grievous acts that are happening throughout our land and the rest of the world. We get so focused on the different types of reasoning that leads to such regretful ends that we miss the fact that all of the different styles of flawed and evil reasoning leads to the exact same end. Radical Islamic terrorism leads to the same end as does the greed that drives the Mexican cartels. Similarly, the ideology fueling the gang bangers in Chicago leads to the same end as did the flawed mindset of the jealous ex-boyfriend from Mississippi, named Alex Deaton. The reason they all lead to the same end is because Jesus’ words were true.

“[Jesus said to them,] You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar.”  John 8:44

The simple truth is that those who reject Jesus and, instead, live for themselves live according to their father’s will, who is Satan. His will is only to lie, steal, kill, and destroy. When we lie, we speak Satan’s language. When we steal from others, kill one another, or destroy that which God intended to be good, we act in direct accordance with Satan’s character and his will for us. That means we must move our attention away from ideologies, nationalities, and skin colors as though they are the source of the problems in our world and we must, instead, realize that all of the perpetrators of such evils have one thing in common and that commonality is the true root world’s problems – they all reject the gospel and refuse to submit to the lordship of Jesus.

There is no need for racism or nationalism. They are counterproductive in our fight. Our fight is not “us versus them.” Rather, our fight is us versus him.

For eight years during the Obama administration, it seems I heard on repeat that “we cannot defeat our enemy, unless we name our enemy.” I’m in total agreement with that sentiment, so let’s name our enemy. Our enemy is Satan and he has blinded the eyes of the world and, sadly, even the eyes of many Christians, so that they focus only on surface level explanations for the death and destruction that we see throughout our world. He has made it all to easy for those who are blinded to completely miss the fact that all of those different explanations for evil have the same root cause – namely, himself. Satan is our enemy. For that reason, there is no need for racism or nationalism. They are counterproductive in our fight. Our fight is not “us versus them.” Rather, our fight is us versus him.

Our battle is not against flesh and blood…but against the spiritual forces of evil. Ephesians 6:12

With that in mind, I urge you to hate what is evil and to love what is good! Hate Satan. Hate the death and destruction that he brings. Hate the lies that he inspires. At the same time, love the people for whom Christ died. Have pity on those who are still blinded by Satan. Love Jesus enough to obey his command to take his light into the darkness of the world and to make disciples of the whole world (Matt. 28:19-20). In case you’re uncertain, the whole world includes even the most vile people who still live according to Satan’s will. It will only be after you realize that Jesus saved you as you actively lived according to the same evil desires that drove Alex Deaton and the San Bernardino murderer to kill innocent people that you will develop enough love for Jesus and for other people to drive you to directly attack the true enemy by means of loving and pursuing with the gospel those over whom he still has his control.

Our enemy is not another religious set of beliefs. Our enemy is not another country or ethnic minority. Our enemy is not the people of a certain race. Our enemy is Satan. If we lose sight of that fact we will never be able to be used to defeat him.

Abortion is a Woman’s Right…right?

This following is discussion of the six most common lies that I hear recited from my pro-choice friends – although to their credits I do think that they believe these lies and do not lie intentionally. This is one of my lengthier posts, but I hope that you’ll read and consider each of these short discussions. Also, I invite you to respond where you disagree – just try to do it without making unsubstantiated assertions or emotional pleas.

Lie #1: Abortion is a woman’s right.

That is to say, “It is a woman’s right to intentionally kill her unborn child.” That is no Screen Shot 2017-03-01 at 9.35.06 AM.pngdifferent than believing, “I have a right to the pursuit of happiness and you inhibit my happiness, therefore, I have the right to kill you.” That’s absurd! A person’s (i.e. baby’s) right to life is more sacred than all other rights and should be held above any other competing “right” held by another person. Therefore, a baby’s right to life trumps any competing “right” or desire of its mother.

Lie #2: Abortion is legal, so there’s nothing wrong with it.

Slavery was once legal and Jews were legally exterminated during the Holocaust. Was either of those black marks on human history right, or even morally neutral, since they were legal at the time? Ironically, pro-choice advocates are using similar “personhood” arguments to those that were used by the supporters of slavery in America and by the Nazis in Germany. Though the Holocaust and slavery were legal in their respective lands and at their respective times, we can all agree that they were equally as wrong then as they would be now. Might does not make right.

Alongside this lie often comes the argument that “If abortion is made illegal, then they will just be performed in ‘back alleys’, instead of ‘clinics’, and women will die due to poor care.” First, I do not think nearly as many women would seek abortions if such procedures were not as readily available. Secondly and more importantly, I say, “Ok.” Murders should only be committed in back alleys and under the cover of darkness, instead of in the open and in front of approving bystanders. I’m not arguing that it would be good for women to be hurt by complications due to “back alley abortions”; however, I am saying that it does not follow that we should collectively bless murderous activity because, otherwise, those involved with it will choose to do so in less safe environments where they could potentially get hurt, too. Evil should always be forced into the back alleys of culture, instead of celebrated on Main Street.

Lie #3: It’s a woman’s body, so abortion is her choice!

Wrong. From the time of conception, the unborn child is her own entity with her own unique DNA and genetic makeup that will never change or develop any further. All that changes from the time of conception until her natural death due to old age is her: Size, level of physical development, external environment, and her degree of dependency on Screen Shot 2017-03-01 at 9.42.05 AM.pngother people. As she continues to develop in the womb, a baby girl develops her own organ system, feelings, and even thoughts (yes, there is evidence that suggests babies are capable of dreaming within their mother’s wombs). An unborn girl is NOT a part of a woman’s body – it is simply reliant on the mother so that she can continue to live. The same is true of a one year old child and we agree that it is wrong to kill her simply because she cannot survive on her own.

Lie #4: It’s not a human person – it’s just a clump of cells.

Modern science is clearly refutes this lie. Pro-choice advocates must ignore modern science to tell this lie, yet they continue do so. Consider the following:Screen Shot 2017-03-01 at 9.49.04 AM.png

Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth (Harvard Medical School) “It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at the point of conception.

Dr. Alfred Bongiovanni (University of Pennsylvania) “…I submit that human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood and that any interruption and any point throughout this time constitutes a termination of human life…”

Professor Hymie Gordon (Founder of the Mayo Clinic’s Medical Genetics Program) “By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.”

Lie #4: Abortions are a better option than to have children born into poverty, or forced into the        foster system.

Following it to its logical conclusion most easily refutes this lie. Simply ask, “So would it follow that it would also be best for us to kill the kids who are already born and who are currently living in poverty, or in the foster system? Would they be better off if they were dead?” Of course not! Kids in poverty stricken areas and those who grow up in foster care are of no lesser value than are kids who have been born to wealthier family units. The pro-choice advocate would likely respond to this line of reasoning by claiming that Lie #4 is not about the “value” of a child, rather it’s about saving a child from a life of what we consider to be “poor quality.” To this logic I would respond, “If quality of life is determined by social status and wealth, then please explain to me why the suicide rate among the wealthy is exponentially higher than the suicide rate among those whom we would claim have a “poorer quality” of life.” The answer: Because quality of life has very little to do with social statuses and wealth.

Lie #5: Abortion is acceptable in cases of rape or incest.

Another way to pitch this lie would be to say, “The child deserves to be killed because her father committed a horrible crime.” That would be viewed as a terrible idea in any other situation. It’s a curious thing that we would seek to justify sentencing a baby girl to die because her father committed the crime of rape, yet her father cannot even legally be sentenced to death for his crime! When presented this lie, one should remind the pro-choice advocate that statistics demonstrate that less than 1% of abortions in the U.S. are performed because of rape or incest and then ask, “Would you be willing to grant that all other abortions not performed due to rape or incest are wrong?” I’m almost certain the answer will be “no,” which demonstrates that this lie does not even represent their true reasoning for being pro-choice. This lie is just a distraction tactic. It is not lost on me how difficult rape or incest would be on the victim of such a crime. Indeed, it would be incredibly difficult on everyone impacted, yet the fact remains that killing an innocent baby will not remove the emotional pain that the victim feels, nor will it bring justice to the wrong that has been committed against her – it will only kill an innocent child.

Lie #6: Abortions are sometimes necessary to save the life of the mother.

Abortion can be defined as the intentional taking the life of an unborn baby. Similar to the argument concerning rape or incest, this lie is nothing more than an attempt to justify 99% of abortions based on less than 1% of cases. However, there are rare times that ectopic pregnancies do happen and in which the mother’s life and the baby’s life are in grave danger. In those rare moments, the doctor has the option of either losing both of his patients, or performing a life saving procedure that will be able to save one of his patients. In those situations, the doctor is not intentionally taking the life of an unborn baby – he is performing a life saving measure to save the dying baby’s mother. The unfortunate reality concerning this procedure is that it has not yet been developed to the extent that enables the doctor to simultaneously save the baby’s life. This lie is false because the doctor in this situation is acting with malicious forethought to intentionally take a life, aka performing an abortion. Instead, he is acting with the sole intention of saving the only savable life in a very sad and unavoidable situation.

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I hope it’s now clear to you that our country is sacrificing its children on the alters of profit and convenience. We cannot continue to mindlessly accept and regurgitate the lies that are used to justify their slaughter. Instead, Christians, we must share the life and forgiveness that is found in Jesus, as well as our personal love and support, with women who are in difficult pregnancy situations. We must also pray for the overturning of Roe v Wade and take every possible measure to make sure it is overturned as we intentionally and boldly refute pro-choice lies at every opportunity. If you call yourself pro-life and do none of those things, then you have not been pro-life – you have at very best been indifferent. It’s time for a course correction.

Is It True That Truth Is Relative?

The Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as 2016’s International Word of the Year. The dictionary defines the term as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than are appeals to emotion Screen Shot 2016-12-28 at 1.20.32 PM.pngand personal belief,” or paraphrased, post- truth describes a worldview in which people believe their emotions and personal preferences above objective truth. I believe the Oxford Dictionaries were right in their selection of “post-truth” as the international word of the year because it so rightly depicts the mindset of the masses. Isn’t it true that we hear post-truth statements all of the time? Christianity may be true for you, but that doesn’t mean that it is true for everyone, or you may consider abortion to be wrong, but that’s just your opinion. Can the idea that truth is relative be true? No, because even the claim that truth is relative is not, itself, a relative truth claim, since it labels as untrue the claim that truth is not relative. Therefore, it’s evident that the post-truth worldview is actually a self-contradictory worldview.

If I go to my bank and ask to withdraw $1 million, the teller will quickly inform me that I have insufficient funds and deny my request. Could I rightly respond that it might be true for her that I do not have $1 million my account, but that it’s not true for me that I do not have enough money and expect her to give oblige me and give me the money I requested? Absolutely not! The idea that truth is relative does not work anywhere else in our daily lives, so why do we so readily accept those claims when they are made toward religion and morality? The reason is because those claims are unoffensive and allow people to act as their own gods: the final arbiters of truth, the final authorities on what is right and wrong,  and the ones who decide if there is a God and, if so, how he should act. However, despite the popular belief, it’s actually impossible for any religion to be true for one person and untrue for another, since they all make exclusive truth claims about God and how he has revealed himself. To claim that the sincere Christian (monotheist), who believes in one mortal life that will be followed by judgment and eternity, and the sincere Hindu (polytheist), who believes in a continual cycle of reincarnation, each believe the truth is absurd! There can be only one truth about God’s existence, and how he has revealed himself, and only one truth about morality (i.e. what he has decreed as right and wrong). Any attempt to deny such truth is atheism and self-worship masquerading as tolerance.

So why is it so easy for our society to recognize the reality of objective truth concerning my bank account, but so difficult to recognize the reality of objective truth concerning God Screen Shot 2016-12-28 at 1.21.30 PM.pngand morality? Because, as Oxford Dictionaries recognized, we have collectively jumped head-first into a post-truth worldview in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than are appeals to emotion and personal belief. The problem with the post-truth worldview is that reality does not respect personal preferences, or beliefs, and it shows no regard for one’s emotions. Whether, or not, I sincerely believe that I will die if I jump in front of a car on the freeway has no bearing on whether, or not, I will actually die if I choose to jump in front of a car on the freeway. Similarly, whether, or not, I choose to believe in God, or that he has revealed himself through the Bible, has no actual bearing on if he really exists and, if so, how he has revealed himself; however, our society’s emotions and personal beliefs prefer that the opposite be true, so we have chosen to believe that instead.

Why does what I’m saying matter in the least bit to anyone? Because if God exists then he is the final arbiter of truth and morality and he is going to hold humanity accountable in the exact manners that he has promised. That means that if you are a Christian, then your standing firm on the one exclusive Truth, i.e. Jesus (John 14:6), is of utmost importance to your personal eternal fate (Matt. 10:32-33), as well as to the fate of everyone who does not yet believe, but whom you might have the opportunity to tell that Jesus is the only path to achieving a right standing with God (Acts 4:12). Is avoiding a few moments of potential awkwardness worth forfeiting the opportunity to allow an unbelieving person to come to the knowledge of the true God, as he has revealed himself, and to be saved from eternal punishment via the only Way that God has provided? I don’t think so.

Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, but do it with gentleness and respect.” Knowing the truth does not give you the right to despise, or demean, those who do not know and believe the truth. Instead, it should inspire compassion within you and a desire to share the truth with them before it’s too late. Screen Shot 2016-12-28 at 1.13.35 PM.pngIf you are interested in learning why I believe that God definitely exists and that we have good reason to believe that Jesus is the only true “path” to God, then I encourage you to read my post entitled Only One Thing Can Disprove Christianity – Nothing Else Can. For more information on why I believe that atheism is a failed system of beliefs that cannot possibly be true, read my post Atheism: An Exercise of Unquestionable Blind Faith. If you’re a believer in Jesus, I encourage you to know why you believe and not settle for an ignorant faith. If you aren’t yet a believer in Jesus, then I’d encourage you to be certain you know why you do not believe. Consider whether your reasons for disbelief are emotional by nature, or based objective truth. I guarantee they’re not based on objective truth, so I hope you’ll test your disbelief with the truth and stop living within a post/non-truth worldview.

You Don’t Need To Pray About That

Recently, my wife was talking about Christians who say that they “will pray about it” Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 11.02.38 AM.pngwhen presented with opportunities to participate in ministry and evangelism opportunities. Brittni laughed as she mused, “There are some things that you don’t need to pray about!” As I thought about her statement, I found myself wholeheartedly
agreeing with her: If we are true followers of Jesus, then there really are some decisions that we can make without needing to wonder if we are God’s will, or not.

Our society has made the term Christian into more of a societal and political label than it was ever intended to be. In fact, it was unbelievers who appear to have first coined the term Christian, based on Jesus’ followers’ tendency to imitate him (Acts 11:26). If that was the case for the first Christians, as it certainly appears, then the same should be found true of the lives of modern men and women who call themselves Christians. In fact, if it’s not true of the life of someone who dons that title, then there is reason to believe that that person may believe that they are something that they simply are not (Matt. 7:21; 2 Cor. 13:5).

So what kinds of decisions simply do not always need prayerful consideration? Romans 8:29 states that God’s purpose for all Christians is that they would be “conformed to the image of [Christ].” Therefore, we do not need to pray about anything that would achieve that purpose. The next question to consider is: What was the image of Christ? For Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 11.07.37 AM.pngstarters, he was selfless. 1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” It is easy to immediately picture Jesus literally laying down his life on the cross,
but the context of the verse does not suggest that was picture that John had in mind as he wrote. Instead, it seems that John meant that Jesus’ way of life, prior to the cross, was a selfless and daily laying down of himself for others (Matt. 5:22-43, Jn. 13:1-17, Phil. 2:6-11). With that in mind, we should never have to wonder whether, or not, it is God’s will for us to give of ourselves, our resources, or our time for the good of others and the good of his Kingdom. As Jesus said in Matthew 13:15, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” You don’t need to pray about it: Serve others.

As Jesus said in Matthew 13:15, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

The idea of serving others certainly pertains to the physical needs of others, but a greater service to others is to seek first their eternal salvation. This does not mean that we should neglect their physical needs in order to concentrate on their spiritual ones. Rather, it means that our motivation to demonstrate biblical love for others, including meeting their physical needs, should be wholly spiritual in nature. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

Furthermore, Jesus said that the purpose of his life was to seek and to save those who are lost (Luke 19:10). In addition to that, his final words to his disciples were that they should go into the entire world and make disciples (Matt. 28:19). So this is an easy one: If you areScreen Shot 2017-05-30 at 11.15.06 AM.png presented with an opportunity to participate in evangelism to the lost, then you don’t always need to pray about that. If that was Jesus’ purpose while on earth, then it is also God’s will for you, in order for you to be conformed into Jesus’ image. If you have not been presented with such an opportunity to participate in intentional evangelism, then you don’t need to pray about seeking out such opportunities: Do it! In order to be conformed to Christ’s image, we must seek as he sought.

Perhaps the most pressing question isn’t “Is it God’s will,” as much as it is “Am I willing to do God’s will?”

With all of this in view, let’s indulge in a quick reality check: We usually never actually pray about the things that we say we’ll prayerfully consider. Instead, we typically say that we’ll “pray about it” because that sounds more holy than if we were to just say, “No thanks, I don’t think I want to [fill in the blank],” so let’s stop fooling ourselves. The fact is that truly following Jesus will cost us our lives (Luke 9:23). Some people will literally die for his name, but everyone who has truly received his salvation will definitely give their lives to the end that Jesus’ name might be proclaimed in all the earth, including where they are right now, so that the lost would come to worship him as Savior and King. Perhaps the most pressing question isn’t “Is it God’s will,” as much as it is “Am I willing to do God’s will?

Atheism: An Exercise of Extreme Blind Faith

Comic from Adam4d.com

Comic from Adam4d.com

“I won’t have blind faith.” That is often the reason that atheists and agnostics use to support their disbelief in God. However, I would use that same reason to explain why I could never be an atheist, or agnostic. As a Christian, I am able to read the historical records contained in the Old Testament, which told of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ with extreme specificity hundreds of years in advance. Based on the historical records contained in the New Testament, I have good reason to believe that all of those prophecies were perfectly fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth – most importantly, that Jesus died on the cross and resurrected from the dead. If those things are true, then God exists and he has revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ, who taught that the true God is the same God who is revealed throughout the text of the Bible. Knowing all of that provides reasonable explanation for how the Universe came into existence from nothing, along with how it came to be so finely tuned to support life on Earth, how life began, and how objective “right” and “wrong” exist within humanity. Theism, specifically Christianity, also provides sufficient and coherent explanations for many other fundamental truths for which atheism struggles to account.

In contrast, atheists are forced to explain said truths with an onslaught of incoherent and unsupported explanations. In an effort to sound reasonable, they say that we can’t believe in anything that cannot be proven by science, or naturalism. However, they ignore the fact that they cannot use science to support that very claim. They often angrily accuse Christians of arrogance and bigotry because they believe that they follow the only Way to God and that every other way is wrong, yet atheists have no basis for their belief that arrogance and bigotry is really wrong in the first place.Screen Shot 2016-12-28 at 1.01.38 PM.png Similarly, and most unbelievably, as naturalists, they are forced to believe that all of the matter in the Universe came from absolutely nothing, that the non-living produced the living, that mind came from matter, and that the unfathomable organization of the Universe to permit life on Earth was organized by an unguided explosion that was fueled by…nothing – and all of this happened naturally. It’s almost unbelievable to see so many otherwise intelligent people so desperately clinging to their extreme form of blind faith, since even their own beliefs can never hope to be supported by the same “science” that they complain does not support theism. Not only does science not support many of their beliefs, but their daily experiences always demonstrate the contrary: Something never comes into existence from nothing, non-life never creates life, intelligence never comes from mindless matter, and great explosions always create chaos and never perfect organization.

So why do so many people continue to practice such extreme forms of blind faith, despite all of the logical reasons to forsake it? It’s actually been happening for far longer than most ‘enlightened’ Westerners realize. In fact, Paul wrote in First Century A.D., “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him…” (Romans 1:19-21). By my estimation, Paul was correct: The very existence and coming into being of the Universe, along with all that it contains makes clear to the reasonable person that God must exist. However, history reminds us that humans have always wanted to function as their own god, which necessitates a denial of the true God. That same denial provides atheists with an excuse to live as they desire – as their own god – without any acknowledged fear of penalty from a Divine Law-Giver. However, it’s important to recognize that even in our corrupt society a guilty person cannot claim ignorance of the laws he has broken and expect that a judge will allow him to go freely and without penalty. If imperfect human judges are too just to allow a guilty person to escape without punishment, regardless of any of his claims to ignorance, then how much more certain should we be that the Perfect Judge of the Universe will also judge justly? I encourage anyone who is living in such a manner to repent from your sin and follow Jesus, who counted it as his joy to receive our punishment for denying God and worshipping ourselves in his place. It is only by means of our belief in Jesus that is evidenced by our submission to his authority over our lives that we can be forgiven of our sins because he has paid our debt.

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I simply do not have the amount of faith required to live my life in denial of God.

Only One Thing Can Disprove Christianity – Nothing Else Can

I was recently speaking with someone who is an outspoken atheist, who could probably be labeled an anti-theist, but someone with whom I have been able to develop a friendly relationship, based on our ongoing conversations about my Christian faith and her lack thereof. Jan, would tell you that she was raised a Southern Baptist, but that she hasn’t read the Bible since she decided that she no longer believed what she had been taught from it – 40 years ago. Jan will readily cite obscure Old Testament verses taken out of their original contexts in an effort to undermine Christianity and support her disbelief, which is a commonly tactic used by many skeptics. Whether one’s reason for rejecting Christianity is based on difficult passages in the Old Testament, the many “hypocrites” who claim to be Christians, or any of the other claimed reasons for disbelief, it is important for the Christian and unbeliever alike to understand that those reasons in no way affect the truthfulness of the claims of Christianity.

What Jan has only recently begun to understand is that the claims of Christianity are in no way dependent on the Old Testament, the number of hypocrites claiming to be Christian, or any other peripheral argument. In fact, only one thing can disprove and discredit Christianity – nothing else can. Screen Shot 2016-12-28 at 12.21.47 PM.pngThe truth of Christianity is solely contingent on the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was killed and buried, then resurrected three days later as he claimed he would do (1 Cor. 15:17). If that is true, then Jesus’ fulfillment of his own prophecies concerning his death and resurrection validate several foundational Christian beliefs. Those beliefs include that God exists, since no one naturally returns to life after three days of being dead and buried, and that God validated all of the claims/teachings of Jesus by enabling him to fulfill his prophecies concerning his death and resurrection. So, “How do I know God exists?” Jesus resurrected. “How do I know that the “Christian God” is the only true God?” Jesus resurrected. “How do I know that the Bible is authoritative and true?” Jesus verified his claims to deity by resurrecting from the dead, which gives me sufficient reason to trust his affirmation of the trustworthiness of the Old Testament and the teaching of his apostles in the New Testament.

Continuing that line of thought, if God exists and he has revealed himself through Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:9), then everything that Jesus taught about God, eternity, the way to heaven and hell, all forms of morality, and the reliability of the Old and New Testaments is true. However, as even the Christian scriptures testify, all of his teachings regarding those issues are meaningless if he did not resurrect from the dead after his death by crucifixion. Therefore, for one to successfully discredit Christianity, or even provide valid reasons for doubt, he must reach beyond misinterpreted Old Testament verses and emotive reasons for disbelief. Instead, the critic must begin with the resurrection of Jesus. Screen Shot 2016-12-28 at 12.39.59 PM.pngIn order to consider the truthfulness of Jesus’ resurrection, one need only consider the New Testament accounts of the event as historical documents.  After all, even the most skeptical historian will affirm that those documents were written by men with firsthand knowledge of the historical Jesus.

After explaining all of this to Jan, I asked her, “So, what reasons do you have for not believing that Jesus resurrected from the dead, as so many eyewitnesses claimed?” She smiled thoughtfully and responded, “Well, I’m going to have to think about that. I might not actually have any real reasons.” I returned her smile and said, “You don’t!” In fact, as she is beginning to realize, all of her reasons to disbelieve are emotional in nature. She simply does not want to believe that God exists – much less that Jesus is the only way to God. However, we all know that one not wanting to believe something has no bearing on whether, or not, that particular something is true.

So what does this mean for Christians? It means that we should not be distracted by the red herring arguments that are often presented as reasons to doubt Christianity. Instead, we must remember that there is only one thing that could discredit Christianity: One must overcome and prove as false the mountain of historical evidence that has been preserved within the New Testament, as well extra biblical historical accounts, which affirm the resurrection accounts. For that reason, the Christian must continue to respectfully and lovingly redirect skeptics’ focuses from peripheral objections to the central issue of Christianity. It also means that the most important focus of a Christian’s evangelistic conversation is that Jesus was not only crucified, but that he was raised to life three days later. Screen Shot 2016-12-28 at 12.41.24 PM.pngNot only is that truth at the heart of the Gospel, but it also forces those who disbelieve to put aside empty attacks on Christianity and, instead, to consider the truthfulness of its most central claim. This ultimately enables the Christian to redirect the focus of conversation with a skeptic from difficult texts and emotional objections that have no ability in themselves to bring salvation, instead, to clearly articulated Gospel conversations.

For additional information on the historical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, see either of the sites below, or anything written by Gary Habermas, or William Lane Craig, on the topic. I also recommend any of the “resurrection debates” between either of those men and their atheist counterparts, which can be found on YouTube.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/five-reasons-to-believe-that-jesus-christ-rose-from-the-dead/2013/03/31/59dc712a-9a05-11e2-a941-a19bce7af755_story.html

http://www3.telus.net/trbrooks/garyhabermas.htm