Like I often do, I’d like to start with a disclaimer…
This is my own way of thinking and it works for me, but it is by no means authoritative or complete. No one can actually come to believe in Christ without the Holy Spirit, but it helps to be able to fall back on logic in times of doubt and weakness.
I encourage people to think through these steps (or steps like these) and really dig at the heart of the issue. It perplexes me still just how little people delve into these things when literally everything is riding on them. Keep in mind that this is a logical path, so things like feelings, personal preferences, and predispositions need to be kept in check as much as possible. We are making probabilistic judgments along the way and ignoring what we like or dislike. As humans, these things seep into our decision-making and conclusions all the time, but it has little relevance here.
This is a very surface-level post, so don’t expect it to be comprehensive, but I think it’s a good basic overview. This is my simple three-step path to deciding that Christianity is the one true religion.
OK so the very first step is to decide for yourself:
1. Is there a personal creator of the universe? Yes or no? There are only two options.
Most people claim to believe “yes” to this question because some things seem inherently obvious (of course, many simply state “I believe there is a higher power somewhere” and leave it at that). The universe is not eternal—as skeptics used to propose—and therefore was created or came into being at a finite point in our past. Nothing comes from nothing, so there had to be some external first-cause, right? Natural causes couldn’t sufficiently handle this creation duty, and what natural causes are there to speak of anyway when “nature,” matter, and even time didn’t exist? (Yes, even time came into existence at the Big Bang, most scientists agree.) A personal being had to choose to create the universe rather than there being nothing.
Things like the Cosmological Argument and the impossibility of an actual infinite come into play here…and in my opinion, common sense. When we look around and witness the beauty and intelligence around us, it seems almost preposterous to think it all happened by chance from inanimate and impersonal matter.
So for me, this question is a YES. That leads me to the next question…
2. Did this personal creator choose to reveal itself to us? Yes or no.
One could imagine a scenario where a disinterested creator or god brought this universe into being, and then stepped away to leave us to our own devices. It’s possible. But when we have to decide probabilistically whether this is the case, it’s hard to defend.
In my view, why would a powerful and personal creator make this world (and the resulting intelligent life) and have no interest in it? Why would this creator bother making humans who yearn for answers and even for worship in some form? Why would this creator be satisfied in making such splendor and complexity and being completely detached from it? Doesn’t it make more sense that this creator would ultimately try to make contact with us and for us to recognize him/her?
In my view, it makes more sense that if this grand creator bothered to make us, then a relationship of some sort would naturally follow
Now, if this creator has revealed information and truths to us in some way, I think that would constitute what we refer to as a “religion” or set of beliefs. The question now becomes something else entirely…
3. Out of all the world’s religions, which is most likely to be true? Which one is the right one?
Before we delve into this, let me stop some of you peace-loving hippies (or postmodernists even) out there. No, not all religions can be right, and they do NOT all point to the same thing. They all state contradictory “facts” about this greater power and are mutually exclusive from each other. The issue is not “what’s true for you” because truth is true whether or not you feel it. Someone can believe with all their heart that 2+2 = 3, but they’d be wrong. Like it or not, there is objective truth…some things are right, some things are wrong. What we’re dealing with at this step is figuring out what’s right. And if this great creator has such incomprehensible power, you can safely assume that he/she would make sure that the right set of beliefs is correct all the way. You can’t pick bits and pieces from different sources. Wouldn’t that be a rather incompetent higher power?
Anyway, a likely obstacle you’d come across at this point is this: “you can’t prove whether a religion is true. It’s all taken on faith, not evidence.”
Yes, there is a measure of faith in the unseen and incomprehensible; I understand that. But what we’re trying to decide is which religion is most likely to be true, given what we know and have available to us.
From my study of the major world religions, it was easy to notice some predictable patterns. Some dude has a dream or vision, and then tells other people about it. Sometimes, they are just the person’s own ideas. The hearers of these so-called truths or revelations sense conviction in that person’s voice and demeanor, and they decide he is not lying. Being superstitious and gullible, they start believing and following this original source. Eventually, their numbers increase and you have an established religion.
(Don’t get me wrong…it is my belief that many of these religious leaders believed their own story. There was not much understanding of dreams back then, and visions can come from various places and for different reasons…possibly were even demonic.)
Sometimes, the religion spreads by word of mouth in light of little or no opposition. Other times, it spreads by military might or government mandate.
In almost all cases, the source can be primarily traced to one man who in his enlightenment, writes some scriptures for people to follow. It takes maybe a few months or years. Nothing within these scriptures can be proved or disproved because they largely deal with the metaphysical. This person likely enjoys a heightened status as a leader of a new movement. Who doesn’t like having followers looking up to you, right?
But one religion stands out in stark contrast: Christianity.
The Bible was not written by one person trying to get followers, but rather 40 different authors spaced out over thousands of years.
We have the Synoptic Gospels, which all tell the same story (with varying levels of detail), so there is multiple attestation making it more credible according to methods that help determine historicity. Keep in mind that these people weren’t collectively working on something known as “the Bible” today. They were not collaborators, but rather were people who in some cases didn’t even know each other directly.
We also have biblical stories squarely entrenched in the midst of actual known human history. We see Caesars, Xerxes, and other known figures throughout. These are not fables in mythical settings with made-up events, but are real locations with historical details being confirmed by archeology and ancient historians continually (even including lost civilizations that modern scholars initially claim never existed…until they are proved wrong by the next excavation). The Bible even contains startlingly accurate prophecies regarding the man of Jesus and even the rise and fall of empires. The Dead Sea Scrolls and other finds confirm that these prophecies were recorded well before the actual events took place.
For me, the fact that the Bible tells us things we don’t want to hear even helps confirm its truthfulness. What other religion tells us that we are held accountable even for our thoughts? Or that we are unable to come to good standing with our own works and effort, but rather are completely dependent on the mercy of Jesus? That the love of money or wealth itself can be bad for you and is dangerous?
If I made a religion, I’d tell people to get as rich as possible. This would help support the cause, right? Other religions try to tell you things that make them appealing, like having multiple wives or the promise of 72 virgins in the afterlife…true biblical Christianity is hard and humbling.
The list goes on and on, but you get the idea. Nothing else even comes close.
Does this make Christianity a certainty? Of course not, but you might be compelled to agree that it’s the best candidate for the one true religion.
If this is true and the Bible is the true word of God, then at this point, does it really matter what you feel? Does it matter that you like Buddhism’s teachings better or that you find things in the Bible to be objectionable? You should know as well as anyone that you are fallible and prone to mistakes. What you believe one day can change the next.
The crux of the issue is what is true.
And that is the basic gist of why I believe Christianity to be the one true religion. It’s hard to capture it in a readable blog post, but I hope you get the idea.