August 31, 2011

Why I am A Christian

One of the consistent comments I feel that I am forced to endure is that; 'Christians are only Christians because they do not reflect on their faith.' Or put more simply, 'Christians are only Christians because of blind faith.' This has frustrated me because there is an unfortunate element of truth involved in these statements. I have met a number of Christians who have never really examined their faith. They simply grew up with it and managed to avoid any serious challenge or situation that would cause them to do any real reflection.

But I really do feel that that kind of Christian faith is on the way out (through it is nicely developing in atheist circles). Simply put Christianity no loner has the luxury of an unexamined faith. There simply are too many people proclaiming the end of faith. And there are too many things happening around the world that challenge our faith for blind faith to survive.

So in that light I want to explain why I am a Christian.

However before that let me say quickly why I am not a Christian.

First I am not a Christian because of my family heritage. Yes I do have a Christian lineage on both sides of my family. But many cousins, aunts, and uncles have long forgone any noticeable level of faith or practice. While I cannot know fully their motives, I have a strong suspicion their rejection of faith and my embracing it is not because I have been less reflective then they have.

Second I am not a Christian because I have some profound spiritual experience. Now to clarify I have had a number of what I could call spiritual experiences. There have been times when I have either been very aware of God or strongly sensed his will for me. I pray and believe in the effectiveness of prayer, and I engage in spiritual disciplines to help me grow. But by on large  profound states of spiritual ecstasy are not part of my daily life.

Not a Popular Thing To Declare Believe Me
But enough of the 'why not's' let's move on to the 'why's';

1) First I believe that Christianity's basic understanding of humanity is correct. Without getting into the finer points of it the Christian faith declares that humans were made good and in the image of God, however through an act of free will sinned and gained a sin nature. This means that all humanity has a dual nature part good, via the image of God, and part bad via sin. When you view our history, or even any day I think you more or less find this to be true. Humanity is at any given time able to produces acts of charity, compassion and grace or acts of unspeakable horror, violence and destruction. For eons people have debated whether human nature is basically good, basically bad, or neutral. Christianity declares that it is a mix of both good and bad, and I believe the weight of history is in agreement.

2) Second I believe that the bible is an honest document. When I read the bible itself, I am struck by how very honest it is. The heroes are not perfect, in fact they are quite flawed. Events are described as is with very little obvious attempts at whitewashing the less savoury moments. For example King David is considered to be the archetypal king the man after God's own heart and yet his personal failures and family dysfunction are laid bare for all to see. The same is true of the New Testament. In the gospels we see the disciples failing, misunderstanding Jesus, and frightening with each other. Like I said I find the bible to be an honest document so because it does not seek to lie about the people who helped to shape it I believe it is not lying about the God who inspired it either. 

3) Third I believe Christianity offers the correct solution to humanities persistent problem. Our problem is we have never been very good and being the good we seem to all know we ought to be. Most religions or philosophies pose the solution is to learn more, set up more institutions and to try harder. This enterprise has had various levels of success, but at no time has any society or any individual been able to be perfect (except for Jesus). Christianity says we do not need more teachers or more knowledge in fact it tends to recognize that most of us know what we ought to be doing. Christianity says we do not have a knowledge problem we have a heart problem. We can`t do what we know we need to do so we turn to a saviour. If I were to ever met a group of people or even one person who from the moment they decided, "I will never think, say or do anything wrong ever again" and they succeeded I would be inclined to either seriously retool my faith or reject it.

4) Lastly the crux of the Christian faith is a historic event, the empty tomb of Jesus Christ that can be verified with as much accuracy as any other historic event. It is my belief that the resurrection is the best explanation for why the tomb is empty. Again diving into the defense of the resurrection as a historic event will have to be another future blog. But I want you to think about this one for a moment. Many religions are about a person that God supposedly spoke to. Christianity is about a person who claimed to speak their very words of God, was himself in fact equal to, and one with God, and was put to death for saying such things. Jesus' death should have been the end of the Christian movement. But it wasn't. Within a few days the movement begin again with a new zeal talking about an empty tomb and Jesus being alive again. Again this should have quickly been stopped by simply producing Jesus' body but that was not done. The tomb was empty, the body was gone, and it is my belief that resurrection is the most rational explanation of that event and the ones that directly followed (E.G. the sightings of Jesus and the development of the church).

There you have it. Those are some of the main reasons that I am a Christian. There are of course more. And there are other things that help shape and support my faith. But for the record let me say that it is the logical consistency of Christianity that has led me to my faith, not my ability to reject logic so I can have faith.