Under Construction   See also Why Study Religion
The Bible:

Prophecies fulfilled:
Science and the Bible:
Creation

Uniqueness of Jesus:
Mesianic prophecies
Resurrection:
Books
Criticism
A couple of things have happened recently that got me thinking more about religion. I started getting more involved in church activities after my wife's death. A recent trip to Tibet, 9/11 and discussions with Hindu, Muslim and Jewish friends who's values and morals are not much different than mine got me thinking about "my" religion and what makes it different. I started reading and questioning friends who were more mature in their "faith" and participated in Bible studies. Below is what I've found so far. I've tried to be open and give facts and evidence rather than make this a sales pitch. I've tried to present the position of the majority of Christians (e.g. The Bible is Divinely inspired and mostly true) rather than conservative/fundamental Christians (The Bible is Divinely written and inerrant), or liberal Christians (The Bible is metaphor or stories providing lessons, not a literal account.)

Most people agree that Jesus Christ was a great prophet and religious leader, but Christians think he was more than that. What makes him different from Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius or other leaders?

H. G. Wells, the noted historian, was asked which person had left the most permanent impression on history. He replied that if one judged a person's greatness by historical standards, "By this test, Jesus stands first."

Arguments for Christianity:

  • The bible enjoys wider respect than other texts, and includes not only moral laws and wisdom but also many prophecies that have been fulfilled.
  • Christ is unique in several ways, not only from the number of miracles he performed, but he is the only prophet to claim to be the Son of God and to be raised from the dead. He is also the fulfillment of many biblical prophecies.

    Many extend this to say that Christianity not a religion (a set of beliefs and worship invented by men) but a faith or personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church, Seattle) says,

    "Religion is a system of beliefs or a code of moral conduct that judges (qualifies or disqualifies) a person based on their adherence and obedience to certain codes, rules, laws, traditions, or the performance of required acts."
    Christian law can be summed up in love; love for God and love for others.
  • The main distinction between Christianity and other religions according to many is Grace. The unmerited favor of God. God giving us blessings that we don't deserved.
    Mark Driscoll quotes a non-Christian high school teacher, who said,
    "The difference between Christianity and every other faith in the world is that all other religions are about man trying to reach up to God. Christianity is about God reaching down to man."

    The grace of God is not limited to works or a certain group of people, it is all encompassing and anyone can grab hold of the grace of God by reaching up and touching the hand of Christ.

    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. [Ephesians 2:8-10]

    Buddhism has the eightfold path, which explains that through practicing these 8 areas of mental and ethical development, one can reach a higher mental and spiritual state. See Buddhism.
    Hinduism has karma, or the belief that "good begets good, and bad begets bad. here). It requires human action.
    Islam teaches that "at puberty, an account of each person's deeds is opened, and this will be used at the Day of Judgment to determine his eternal fate". See Salvation in Islam - ReligionFacts

    See Grace and Truth: The Uniqueness of Grace... | What He Is Teaching Me

  • Christians believes that God resides in believers.
    "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God" [1 John 4:15]
    "Christ lives in me." [Galatians 2:20]
  • Eleven of the disciples continued to promote the faith after Christ was crucified and all but one were martyred. They had something (The Holy Spirit) to keep them going.
Credibility of the Bible:
Most people, even of other religions, believe the Bible is at least inspired by God, if not the literal "Word of God".

Although there are inconsistencies in some details in the bible (Many Christians refute this saying it is just our lack of understanding), it is generally very consistent considering more than 40 authors wrote it over more than a thousand years.
In fact, inconsistencies are common in first hand accounts of events because different people perceive events differently. When there are no differences, stories are suspect of being derived from a common script or myth.
See: The Bible

Prophecies fulfilled:
There are many prophecies in the bible, some 800 in the Old Testament and about 200 in the New Testament. A large portion of them have been fulfilled.
Don French says in "The Open Bible" (www.quiknet.com/~dfrench/)

"One of the strongest objective evidences of Biblical inspiration is the phenomenon of fulfilled prophecy. The bible is essentially unique among the religious books of mankind in this respect. Some of them contain a few vague forecasts, but nothing comparable to the vast number of specific prophecies found in the Bible. The same is true of modern "prophets", so-called. Such seers as Nostradamus, Jean Dixon, and others have made many predictions, but often they are nebulous and capable of various meanings. A few of their prophecies seem to have been fulfilled in a general way, but most of them have completely failed."
In Every Prophecy of the Bible, Dr. John F. Walvoord examined one thousand prophecies and concluded that half have already been fulfilled. Many of the unfulfilled prophecies are those describing the events leading up to and the second coming in Revelations.

Fulfilled prophecies include:

Ancient Prophecies: E.g. Destruction of Nineveh [Nahum 3:19], Babylonian rise to [Jeremiah 25:11-12] and fall from [Isaiah 13:19] power, The events of Alexander the Great's siege against the island fortress of Tyre [Ezekiel 26:3] and Edom [Jeremiah 49:16], the coming of Alexander the Great and a detail description of the interactions between the Ptolemies and the Selucids from the death of Alexander the Great to the rise of the Roman Empire [Daniel 11:2-4].

Messianic prophecies: Prophecies (60 major prophecies and 270+ ramifications) from birth to betrayal and rejection about a Messiah are fulfilled by Jesus.
(See: Jesus fulfills Prophecies below.)

Prophecies about the Nation of Israel: Jacob's vision of Israel's future [Genesis 28:10-15], Exile, Babylon would rule Judah for 70 years [Jeremiah 25:11-12], Rome's destruction of Israel [Deuteronomy 28:49-52], destruction of the Temple [Daniel 9:26] and Jerusalem [Luke 21:24] in 70 AD, Jews would be scattered worldwide [Deuteronomy 28:64], Persecution [Zechariah 8:13], Rebirth [Isaiah 66:7-8], Re-establishment as a united nation [Ezekiel 37:21-22].
See Also: "Christian Internet Forum" at www.konig.org and What is Bible Prophecy at www.aboutbibleprophecy.com
Every Prophecy of the Bible by John F., Dr Walvoord ,
Ten More Prophecies Fulfilled by Yeshua
Bible Prophecy: Failure or Fulfillment by Tim Callahan,
and "Prediction & Fulfillment in the Bible", by Gurdon Oxtoby,
Prophecies of the Bible: Did they come to pass? at ReligiousTolerance.org

Note: Most books on biblical prophecies deal with the second coming and others in the Book of Revelation.

Science and the Bible:
Much of the criticism of Christianity and Religion in general has to do with what may seem to be conflicts with science. From the churches 1616 battle with Galileo for defending the Copernican view that the sun was the center of the solar system to the 1925 "Scopes Monkey Trial" where William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow faced off over the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution in a Dayton, Tennessee highschool, there have been differences.

In the case regarding the heliocentric solar system, the church had based it's positions on Greek and Roman philosophy and science and not the bible. The only thing in the Bible about it is in [Joshua 10:12-13]: "So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,"
See more on evolution below.

Albert Einstein said,

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

"God of the Gaps" arguments, associate things not explained by science as one of Gods miracles. Most theologians find these arguments demeaning to science and religion. As gaps are filled by science, God becomes smaller.

In a March 4, 2007 NY Times Magazine article "Darwins God", Robin Mertantz Hening says "Research about the evolution of religion Suggests otherwise. No matter how much science can explain, it seems, the real gap that God fills is an emptiness that our big-brained mental architecture interprets as a yearning for the supernatural. The drive to satisfy that yearning, according to both adaptationists and byproduct theorists, might be an inevitable and eternal part of what Atran calls the tragedy of human cognition."

ProofTexting or proof-texting is frequently used to show the Bible makes some claim about science or social theory. It is the practice of using isolated quotations establish a proposition. Using discrete quotations is generally seen as decontextualized.

A lot of conservative Christian literature makes out Scientists to be against religion, but a survey of scientists shows believers outnumber atheists by 4 to 1.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) from 1993-2008 and director of the NIH starting in 2009, is also a evangelical Christian. And makes strong arguments for reconciling science and religion.

At God: Fact or Fiction? - Veritas Forum - YouTube - 1 1/2 hrs., John Lennox, Mathematics professor at Oxford, makes the case for God and Science.

See: Scientists of Faith.

Recent archeological (archaeology) discoveries have confirmed some biblical events. However, there is still disagrement about history before the 9th century. See Archaeology in Inerrancy.

The bible refers to a spherical earth when common understanding still thought it was flat. A literal translation of Job 26:10 is "He described a circle upon the face of the waters, until the day and night come to an end." A spherical earth is also described in Isaiah 40:21-22 - "the circle of the earth."

Creation:

Discoveries like "the big bang" are consistent with creation. In Isaiah 42:5 it says: "This is what the Lord says - He who created the heavens and stretched them out."
Some scientists had predicted that the mass of the universe would eventually cause it to collapse back in on itself. In fact current evidence indicates the rate of expansion and/or some unknown force (anti-matter ?) will preclude this. Is this just random luck?

Although many conservative Christians "Creationists" believe in the literal 7 x 24 hour day scenario, most Christians believe God took a long time to create life ("For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday ..." [Psalms 90:4], [2 Peter 3:8]), so the bible is consistent with an evolutionary process.

See also The Bible as History in the inerrancy page

See Also:
Creation - Evolution - Intelligent Design
Scientists of Faith.

See: Web pages - Reasons To Believe - scientific support for your faith or answers to questions about God and science at www.reasons.org, Science in the Bible at www.quiknet.com/~dfrench/evidence/, NASA answers
www.clarifyingchristianity.com/science.shtml
www.godandscience.org/apologetics/sciencebible.html

Uniqueness of Jesus:
Some regard Jesus as just a good moral man or a prophet who said a lot of profound things. However, based on what he claimed about himself, one can't conclude he was just a good moral man.

Scholar and author C. S. Lewis states:

"A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic ... or else he would be the Devil from Hell."

What we know of him is based on testimonies of the apostles; eleven of whom died martyrs' deaths on the basis of the resurrection of Christ and their belief in him as the Son of God. Why would they die for a lie?

Some claim that much of the story is myth, but the first 3 Gospels which chronicle Christ's life were written within 55-70 years of his death from first and second hand accounts. It usually takes myths much longer to develop.

Jesus fulfills prophecies (60 major prophecies and 270+ ramifications) made at least 400 years before his birth (Some say 456 prophecies). I don't think the number is important (many of them are stretches and can be argued), it's the very specific ones which are hard to dispute; They include his birthplace, Bethlehem, [Micah 5:2]; His family line (house of David [2 Sam. 7:12], tribe of Judah [Genesis 49:10], Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Shem); Rejection by his own people [Isaiah 40:3], Day Christ would enter Jerusalem [Daniel 9:24-26].
See: Christian Internet Forum (at www.konig.org/) and Stoner's probability for more.

Some people quote Psalms written by David which included, Betrayal by a friend [Psalms 41:9]; Suffering similar to the crucifixion [Psalms 22:16-18] as prophesies, but they seem to be David talking about himself not a messiah.

In Luke 21:33, Jesus said that regardless of what happens to the world, His words would never be forgotten.

See:
Biblical Prophecy Resource Center
Tenakh/Hebrew Scriptures

Miracles:
Although Elisha [ 2 Kings:4] and the Apostles [Acts 3] also performed miracles, none compared to the number performed by Christ. E.g.

Resurrection:
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of most Christian's faith.
Theories advanced to explain the resurrection from natural causes are weak. They must answer two things (1) The empty tomb, (2) The appearance of Christ to multiple people and groups following the resurrection.

The Wrong Tomb:
The Jewish authorities would have produced the proper tomb to stop the rumor of a resurrection.

Swoon Theory:
This theory, popularized by D H Lawrence's short story "The Man who Died", suggests that Jesus didn't really die, but merely fainted.
Doctors have analyzed the descriptions of the condition of Jesus after his flogging and on the cross and concluded it was impossible to have survived.

The body stolen:
The condition of the disciples (afraid and confused) at the time would not be consistent with them taking the body. How would they get past the Roman Guards?
If Jewish or Roman authorities had taken it, they would have explained that when the disciples were preaching the resurrection.

Appearances:
Jesus appeared 11 times in the 40 days after his crucifixion; most of these to more than one person. [1 Cor 15:5-8] The theory that these were illusions or hallucinations does not coincide with the historical situation or with the mental state of the apostles.
Some doubt is shed on this theory in that the first Gosple, Mark, didn't have any resurrection accounts.

Skeptics who became believers:
There are countless examples of skeptics who in their attempts to disprove Christianity became some of the strongest supporters of it.
C.S. Lewis and Lee Strobel (see books below) were both skeptics/atheists who became strong supporters of Christianity.

One of the most influential testimonies to Christianity was when Saul of Tarsus, perhaps Christianity's most rabid antagonist [Acts 8:3, 26:9], became the Apostle Paul. Saul was a Hebrew zealot, Pharisee, roman citizen and well educated in Hebrew as well as Greek history and philosophy. His encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus [Acts 22:6] transformed him from an intolerant, bitter, persecuting religious bigot to a patient, kind, enduring and self-sacrificing servant who authored 7 (possibly more) books of the bible.

Disciples Commitment:
Further evidence to the authenticity of Christ is the dedication of the disciples. They all continued to spread the word and all but John died martyrs.

Evidence of Christ's power today:
Countless numbers of people have had their lives turned around when they became active, professing Christians or put their trust in Christ. The most common testimonies include:
  i. Elimination of demons such as substance abuse, infidelity, ...
 ii. An inner peace that allows one to control anger and reduce stress.
iii. Resolution of problems in times of trouble (financial, emotional, ...).

In my personal observation, after having been actively involved in a Church and mens bible study for about 12 years is:
The majority of christians were people who had been brought up in the church and attended for a variety of reasons like providing a moral compass in their lives, filling a spiritual need, family tradition or wanting their kids to have a spiritual component in their education.

The people who had radical transformations mostly from occasional christians or atheists to born again believers fit into some common categories:
The conversion examples below are people of some notoriety, but are representative of people I know.

  • Men who's wives had turned to religion and they noticed a profund change in their character and the way they related to the family. E.g. Lee Strobel
  • Men and women who out of the blue felt some emptiness in their lives that religion seemed to fill. Many had found out a person they had talked to recently was a Christion with an unusually peaceful demeanor although they did not discus religion with them or found out some friends had been praying for them.
    C. S. Lewis could be an example, although I'm looking for a better one. After years of his friend J. R. R. Tolkien's urging he accepted theism and later Christianity.
    In his book Surprised by Joy he says:
    "You must picture me alone night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. In 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed.
  • People who had some kind of addiction (substance abuse, sex, ...) which religion helped to control. E.g. Willie Alfonso or
    "The Day George Bush Stopped Drinking: Why Abstinence Matters to the Religious Right", by Jessica Warner
    In "Surprised by Faith" Mitch Albom describes a reformed crack addict, drug dealer and convict, Henry Covington, - who becomes a minister preaching to the poor and homeless in Detroit.
  • People who had an event, miracle cure, ... happen in their lives. See Blaise Pascal.
There are of course, people who have gone the other way, from faith to agnosticism or atheistism. See people who have lost their faith on the criticism page.

Stories of divine influence in our lives abound. E.g. Three businessmen in a World Trade Center bible study group said they were "ready to go to Heaven" shortly before 9/11/01. Three men in the group died on 9/11; the same three.

On April 5th, 2003 39-year-old reporter, David Bloom, sent an e-mail to his wife from Iraq where he was reporting on the war. It said,

"When the moment comes in my life when you are talking about my last days, I am determined that you and others will say 'he was devoted to his wife and children, he was admired, he gave every ounce of his being for those whom he cared most about... not himself, but God and his family.'"
On April 6th he collapsed and died of a pulmonary embolism.

Of course, making your life "better" is not the reason you should seek a stronger relationship with Christ. God does not always answer our prayers in the time or way we hoped. He will give you what you need not necessarily what you want.

See Why does a loving God allow suffering.


Spiritual world:
The afterlife is one of the main topics (I list it under Salvation on the topics page).
I know of two personal first hand experiences from mature down to earth friends which can only be explained by spiritual, Extrasensory perception (ESP) or transcendental means.
None of these are necessarily evidence for Christianity, but for some realm science can't explain.
There are numerous accounts of near-death experiences which cannot be explained by current science. The most recent one popularized in the book, "Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back", Lynn Vincent, 2010,
which is the true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven.
He described deceased relatives he didn't know or had never seen a picture of, and knowledge of a miscarriage he had never been told about.
See Is "Heaven Is for Real" for Real?: An Exercise In Discernment | theBereanCall.org.
Doubt:
A variety of Christian writers have said that "doubt is a necessary part of faith because faith does not mean 100% certainty." Doubt is part of faith not the opposite of it, unbelief is the opposite.
Paul Tillich, German-American theologian, said: "Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith."

John Calvin said,
"Surely, while we teach that faith ought to be certain and assured, we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety."

Rabi Brad Hirschfield said,
"Doubts and questions are vehicles for clarifying one's faith and for maintaining personal integrity. If one's faith is nothing more than a source of static answers, it quickly becomes a mindless rhetoric with God as its footnote. That is hardly what most of us who subscribe to any faith believe in."

See Faith vs Reason here for more on doubt.


Hypocrisy:
Many reject Christianity because of the hypocrisy of many Christians.
Many use the phrase "The church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners."
Christians should be judged for who they strive to be now who they are.
Books
Notation: (338, 4) = 338 customer reviews at Amazon with a rating of 4 out of 5
Note: Bible links here are to the New International version at BibleGateway.com other online versions are listed on the Bible page.
See Also:
My faith statement
Questions, Objections, Opposing views and apparent contradictions
Inerrancy and Authority
Faith vs Reason Christianity is not going away Washington Post

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Last updated 13 Mar 2013