Yeshua - Hebrew form of Jesus

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Christians often feel as though they are being assaulted from every side; the liberal media makes them feel ignorant for believing in an ancient worldview said to be irrelevant to today's society, scientists make them feel foolish for believing in God's creation of the Universe, and their liberal - perhaps "liberated" - friends make them feel silly for not joining in on their fun.  Christians often feel this way because they lack knowledge regarding their faith, having stopped learning about Christianity when they were youth in Sunday School.  When asked for a definition of faith, such Christians might answer that faith is "believing something you know is not true!"

That many non-Christians hold this definition of faith is not surprising, but that many believers overtly or secretly hold this view is tragic.  Indeed, Christians sometimes feel as though they have to separate their intellectual mindset for a religious one when entering their church, and perhaps in some churches this is indeed true!  We live in an increasingly sophisticated and educated world.  It is no longer acceptable merely to know what we believe, but it is not essential to know why we believe.  Believing something doesn't make it true.  A thing is true whether we believe it or not, and this is especially true regarding Christianity.

There are two equally erroneous viewpoints among Christians today as to whether Christianity is ration.  The firs is an anti-intellectual approach to Christianity.  They misunderstand verses like Colossians 2:8, 

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

Some use this verse to indicate that Christianity is at least non-rational if nor irrational.  These people fail to realize that a clearly reasoned presentation of the gospel "is important - not as a rational substitute for faith, but as a basis for faith; not as a replacement for the Spirit's working but as a means by which the objective truth of God's Word can be made clear so that men will heed it as the vehicle of the Spirit, who convicts the world through its message."1

There are challenges to our faith on every hand.  Modern communications have made the world our back yard.  We are today likely to be challenged from a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist all of whom claim valid religious experience that may approximate ours.  In our scientific age, ethical humanism or materialistic naturalism is having a strong appeal - Julian Huxley's Religion without Revelation is a good example of this approach.

The analytical philosopher Antony Flew states how meaningless to the non-Christian are religious assertions incapable of being objectively tested.  The modern viewpoint is that all religion is based upon emotion and not evidence, determined by what you grew up with and not by what you intellectually acknowledged.  He illustrates from a tale told by John Wisdom,

Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle.  In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds.  One explorer says, "Some gardener must tend this plot."  The other disagrees, "There is no gardener."  So they pitch their tnts and set a watch.  No gardener is ever seen.  "But perhaps he is an invisible gardener."  So they set up a barbed wire fence.  They electrify it.  They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man could be both smelled and touched though he could not be seen.)  But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock.  No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber.  The bloodhounds never give cry.  Yet still the believer is not convinced.  "But there is a gardener, invisible, insensible to electric shocks, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves.":  At last the skeptic despairs, "But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?"2

John Montgomery comments on this:

"This parable is a damning judgment on all religious truth-claims save that of the Christian Faith.  For in Christianity we do not have merely an allegation that the garden of this world is tended by a loving Gardener; we have the actual, empirical entrance of the Gardener into the human scene in the person of Christ (John 20:14-15), and this entrance is verifiable by way of his resurrection."3

Rational Approach

The opposite of the anti-intellectual approach which comes from those who believe that becoming a Christian should be an exclusively rational act; that everything depends upon the mind.  The tendency of this group is to argue people into the kingdom.  Generally, this method is not very productive as there are also moral considerations involved.  "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:14).  Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, no one would believe in Christianity; however, one of the instruments used by the Holy Spirit is knowledge of the gospel gained through a reasoned, intellectual explanation.

Know Answers

The Bible gives clear commands to Christians to be intelligent in the way we share the faith, to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (1 Pet. 3:15).  We need to have ready reasons why we believe as we do; indeed, this is one of the main purposes of this Website - to present a reasoned apologetic for the truthfulness of Christianity.  If we are ignorant about this issue, then we are confirming unbelievers in their unbelief.

There are other sound reasons why we need to understand our faith.  If we know that Jesus lives only because as the hymn states, "he lives within my heart," then we are going to be in trouble the first time we don't feel that way. And when a non-Christian claims to have experienced the same thing from their god, we will have no ready answer.  We may choose to ignore doubts, but eventually these doubts will undermine our faith.  We cannot drive ourselves infinitely by willpower alone to believe something of which we are not intellectually convinced.  In fact, when someone tells us the only reason we believe is because of our parents and our religious upbringing, we must be able to show ourselves and others that what we believe is objectively true regardless as to how we came to that knowledge.

A Rational Body of Truth

Many non-Christians fail to understand the gospel seriously because no one has ever presented the facts clearly to them.  They associated faith with superstition based primarily upon emotional considerations and therefore it is rejected.  An unenlightened mind cannot come to the truth of God unaided, but enlightenment brings comprehension of a rational body of truth.

The gospel is always equated with truth. Truth is always the opposite of error (2 Thess 2:11-12).  Non-Christians are defined by Paul as those who reject (either directly or indirectly) the truth (Rom 2:8).  These statements would be meaningless unless there was a way to establish objectively what is the truth.  If there were no such possibility, truth and error would, for all practical purposes, be the same because there would be no means to differentiate one from the other.

Some comprehension of the truth should be known to everybody.  Paul makes it clear that people have enough knowledge from creation itself to know that there is a God (Romans 1:20), and certainly this is even more apparent today.  Paul indicates that the basic reason why people refuse to know God is not because he cannot be known or understood but because human beings have rebelled against him, their Creator. "Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him (1:21) ...  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man (1:23). ... They exchanged the truth of God for a life" (1:25) and finally, they "did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God." (1:28). 

Moral Issues

The moral issue always overshadows the intellectual issue in Christianity.  It is not that people cannot believe - it is that they will not believe.  Jesus pointed to the Pharisees that refusal to believe was their main difficulty - not intellectual difficulty, "You refuse to come to me, to have life." (John 5:40).  Jesus makes it abundantly clear that moral commitment leads to a solution of the intellectual problem. "If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." (John 7:17).

The question is often asked, "If Christianity is rational and true, why is that that most educated people don't believe it?"  The answer is the same as to why uneducated people don't believe - they won't want to believe. It's not really a matter of brain power, for there are outstanding Christians in every field of the arts and sciences; rather, it is a matter of the will.

Doubt

Doubt often comes to those who are raised in the faith when young, and then leave the house for school or work, only to be assaulted with questions and challenges from non-Christians about their faith.  Frequently, they have accepted the facts of Christianity solely on the basis of confidence and trust in their parents, friends, or minister - but have not developed their own faith.  As the educational process developes, a re-examination of their Christian beliefs takes place.

It is sometimes implied that a good Christian would never doubt their faith, and that the questioner's spiritual life must be slipping because what he or she was thinking.  But, doubt and questioning are normal to any thinking person.  This is natural, healthy, and should even be encouraged for it is better to have doubt in a controlled environment rather than to be initially challenged in the classroom.

But it is also important to recognize that we have not been given full answers to every question; however, it is improbable that anyone has recently developed a question that will bring Christianity crashing down.  Brilliant minds have thought through the profound questions of every age - and they have been ably answered.  But we don't have full answers to every question because the Lord has not fully revealed his mind to us on everything.  "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever."  (Deut 29:29).  We possess enough information, though, to have a solid foundation for our faith.  Christianity is a reasonable faith; it goes beyond reason but not against it.

1. John w. Montgomery, "The Place of Reason, HIS, March, 1966, p. 16.

2.  Antony Flew, "Theology and Falsification,"  New Essans in Philosophical Theology, eds. Antony Flew and Alasdair MacIntyre (London: SCM Press, 1955)

3.  On the issue to theological verification, see John W. Montgomery, "Inspiration and Inerrancy: A New Departure,"  Evangelical Theological Society Bulletin 8, (Sprin 1956): 45-75.

 

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