Christians need to pick their battles. In part one of this series I mentioned minutia, and how we shouldn’t get caught up in it. Where did Cain get his wife? Why are there differences in Bible versions? How come Christians are such hypocrites? Or other trivialities. Critics of the faith will find something to dispute, no matter how strong your defense. It’s in their heart. They don’t want to believe, don’t want to be accountable to God, and will mount any argument–no matter how simple or ridiculous–to defend that position. In my Christian experience I have found these three things to be the most important points of contention. This is where most critics pitch their tents.
Jesus is merely a great teacher or prophet: I find this to be “hedge-betting.” I can “honor” Jesus without accepting His claims. I suppose the hope is that somehow this may earn them “consideration” before the throne of God on Judgment Day. C.S. Lewis aptly responded to this position. Jesus did not give us the option of accepting Him as a great prophet or teacher. His claims are well beyond anything “great” if He was not exactly who He says He was, the Son of God. He claimed to be God, He proved He was God with the demonstration of miracles among witnesses, even His critics, and proved His claims by rising from the dead. A teacher or prophet who claimed what Jesus claimed–and was not–is either lying or crazy.
Neither trait is worthy of “greatness” or “honor.” I will conclude and paraphrase what Lewis concluded: if Jesus was not lying or crazy, He must be the Son of God. If we allow Jesus to be framed a “great prophet or teacher,” we have allowed Him to be relegated to the level of any other religious sage, with a message no more or less important than that of Buddha, Mohammed, Confucious, or numerous others–famous or obscure. The “truth” becomes simply a matter of personal pragmatism, if it works for you, then it is good for you. While this may work if we are only concerned with people governing themselves according to some moral guidelines, it cares nothing for the souls of men or their eternal future. This is not acceptable in the Christian faith.
The Bible is a human book, a product of the religious experiences of one people: The Bible is, indeed, a human book and the product of the religious experiences of one people. But that is only half of the explanation. The Bible has universal application for all mankind–and says so. Though it is human in the sense that humans penned it, its revelation is divine, transmitted via the Holy Spirit to the human scribe, to be disseminated throughout the world.
The Bible does not claim to be a human book; it claims to be the Word of God. It claims to be universal truth, not just applicable to one group of people. If it is not the Word of God while claiming to be so, we have no more business reading it than we do following Jesus if He is not really the Son of God.
The issue at stake here is authority. If the critical claim is valid, and the Bible is only a human record of religious evolution, then let’s read it alongside the Book of Mormon, the Koran, or any other religious text and glean what we can from it. The rest is the personal pragmatism I noted above…but it is not salvation. No Christian can pretend it is. If men are to heed what the Bible says, it must be shown to be supernatural and authoritative.
It doesn’t matter what your religion is as long as you’re sincere, God understands: It is tempting to accept this, even as a believer. When we evaluate someone who is not a Christian–especially someone we love–on the “good-o-meter,” our rebellious nature wants to believe that God will somehow find a way for that person to get to heaven. Our earthly and carnal sense of justice just does not want to accept that good, moral, and religious people are not getting to heaven if they are not Christians.
Faithful Bible-believing Christians know this is not the case, but the thought sometimes pulls at us just the same. If that is true for the Christian, how much more so does this thought pull at the unbeliever? How alluring this idea can be. But it has been my experience that this argument is only raised by people who have no religion at all.
The Muslim, Buddhist, Mormon, or Hindu knows this is not the case. There is a path to “heaven” and they are on it, whatever it may be, and any other path is wrong. Jesus made the exclusive claim to being the way in John 10 and very directly in John 14:6. Why should I believe Jesus over all the others? Because the resurrection validated His claim and separated Him from all the others. There is no allowance for sincerity.
In part three of this series, I will offer some simple refutations to help the Christian solidify their faith and, hopefully, give the critic something to think about. The message of Christianity is empowered by the testimony of Jesus Christ, moved by the Holy Spirit. We all still have doubts, yes. Partly our own, partly because we don’t work as hard as we should to shore up our faith. But those doubts can be overcome.