How I Know Christianity is True
Article contributed by Probe Ministries
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Probe's Patrick Zukeran offers 5 lines of evidence that Christianity is true: Christianity teaches the correct worldview, the Bible is God's Word, Jesus confirmed His claims, Christ's resurrection, and personal experience.
Because Christianity Teaches the Correct Worldview
Among all the religions and philosophies, how do we know Christianity is true? While there are many ways to address the question, let's begin by saying that Christianity makes sense of the world around us. In other words, it presents the most correct worldview based on the world in which we live. There are three worldviews that lie at the foundation of all religions and philosophies: theism, naturalism, and pantheism. Theism teaches there is a personal God who created the universe. Naturalism teaches there is no divine being and that the universe is the result of time and chance. Pantheism teaches that the universe is eternal and that the divine is an impersonal force made up of all things. All three worldviews cannot be true at the same time and if one of them is true, the other two must be false.
The evidence from our study of the universe points to theism. Unfortunately, time will allow me to go over only three lines of evidence.
The first is the argument from first cause or the cosmological argument, which states if something exists, it must have either come from something else, come from nothing, or have always existed. What is the most reasonable conclusion of the three for the existence of the universe? Scientists confirm that the universe has a beginning. Many call this the "big bang." Since the universe assuredly has a beginning, the worldview of pantheism bears the burden of proof. Second, to say the universe comes from nothing goes against responsible scientific inquiry and human logic. For example, any invention in human history is not brought about from nothing. It comes from materials and ingenuity that existed before its inception. Therefore, the naturalist worldview has no logical ground to stand on. The best conclusion is that the universe is the result of a cause greater than itself. That cause is God.
Second, we have the proof of design or the teleological argument. Complexity and design point to a designer. For example, although all the parts of a watch are found on the earth, no one would assume it evolved as the result of natural, unguided actions of chance. Why would we conclude otherwise when we look at the human brain or the human anatomy, which is much more complex? The more we discover about the universe and nature, the more we realize how unlikely it is that this could have all happened by accident. Therefore, the burden of proof is on the worldviews of naturalism and pantheism, which hold to a position of evolution.
Finally we have the moral argument. All people have a sense of right and wrong. In every culture, adultery, murder, and stealing are wrong. Where does that universal sense of right and wrong come from? A moral law code requires a moral Lawgiver who is personal and reflects the moral law in His character. Since we are made in God's image, we reflect His moral law. C.S. Lewis stated, "As an atheist my argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?"1 Naturalists and pantheists have difficulty accounting for the human conscience.
For these reasons, theism is the only possible worldview that can remain true to scientific and philosophical scrutiny.2
Because the Bible is God's Word
Among all the books written by man, none have the credentials that equal the Bible. The second evidence for Christianity is the Bible, which proves itself to be true and divinely inspired.
The Bible proves itself to be true because it is a historically accurate document. Thousands of archaeological discoveries confirm its historical accuracy. Numerous civilizations, rulers, and events once thought legendary by the skeptics have been confirmed by archaeology. Even miraculous geographic events in Sodom and Gomorrah, Jericho, and Sennachareb's defeat in the 7th century B.C. have passed the test of archaeological scrutiny.
Another proof of the Bible's truth is in historical records outside the Bible. Numerous historical records from ancient civilizations confirm the historicity of the biblical accounts. Dr. William Albright, who is still respected as probably the foremost authority in Middle Eastern archaeology, said this about the Bible: "There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament."3 The historical evidence upholds the premise that if an ancient historical work proves to be accurate again and again in its detail, we can be confident that it is accurate on the material we cannot confirm externally.
The Bible's divine inspiration is attested to in its unity. Although the Bible is written over a 1500 year period, written by over forty different authors from different backgrounds, and covers a host of controversial subjects, it maintains a unified theme and it does not contradict itself in principle from beginning to end. This indicates that a divine author supervised the entire process and guided each writer.
Second, we have the remarkable record of prophecy. Hundreds of detailed prophecies are written years before the event takes place. For example the prophet Ezekiel in chapter 26 describes accurately how the city of Tyre will be destroyed years before it occurs. Daniel predicts the empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Prophecy shows the divine hand of God because only an eternal being could have inspired the writers to leave such a legacy.
Finally, the Bible answers the major questions all belief systems must answer. Where did we come from? What is the nature of the divine? What is our relationship to the divine? What is the nature of man? How do we explain the human predicament? What is the answer to the human predicament? What happens after death? And how do we explain evil? Any system that does not answer these questions is an incomplete system. The Bible gives the most complete and accurate answers to the truly important questions of human existence.
No other book ever written has these credentials. A book written by God would have the fingerprints of God all over it. The Bible alone has His fingerprints.4
Because Jesus Confirmed His Claims
How do I know Christianity is true? Another source of confirmation comes from the person of Jesus Christ. Among all men who ever lived, Jesus stands apart from each one. Throughout the gospels, Jesus claimed Himself to be God. He claimed to have authority over the law, creation, sin, and death. John 10:30-33 states,
'I and the Father are one.' Again the Jews picked up stones to stone Him but Jesus said to them, 'I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?' The leaders replied, 'We are not stoning you for any of these but for blasphemy because you a mere man, claim to be God.'
The Jewish enemies of Christ clearly understood His claims and it is for this reason they killed Him. His disciples also understood His claim and presented it in their message. Not only did He make an extraordinary claim; Jesus confirmed it. There are numerous ways in which Christ proved His claims. I will cover only four.
The first confirmation of Jesus' claims is His sinless life. Jesus' most intimate companions stated He committed no sin that He needed to repent of. Paul writes of Christ, "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor. 5:21) It would have been hypocritical of Jesus if He had indeed sinned and never repented, for He taught all men this principle. Even His enemies could find no sin in Him. Pontius Pilate, after examining Jesus, stated to the angry mob, "I find no basis for a charge against him." The Bible declares God is holy and Jesus showed Himself to be holy as well.
The second confirmation is the impact of Christ on mankind. More schools and colleges have been built in the name of Christ than any other man. More hospitals and orphanages are built in the name of Christ than any other person. More literature and music are written about Christ than any other person. More laws and ethical codes are built on His teachings than any other man. He has had a tremendous impact on every area of culture like no one else.
The third confirmation is the miracles He performed. God's existence makes it reasonable to assume He would use miracles to confirm His message and messenger. Miracles are a powerful confirmation because it authenticates the creator's authority over His creation. Christ's miracles over nature, sickness, spiritual forces, sin, and death displayed this authority over every realm of creation.
The fourth confirmation is the fulfilled prophecies. Before He set foot on the earth, there were over seventy specific prophecies made by the Old Testament writers about the Messiah. The prophecies included the city of birth, His method of execution, His betrayal, the date of His death, etc. Jesus fulfilled each of these. The probability of His fulfilling just eight of these by chance is very close to a mathematical zero.
No one has both made the claims of Christ and confirmed them, as He did. His life is another proof Christianity is true.5
Because of the Resurrection
Jesus further confirmed His claims to be God by rising from the dead. Jesus openly proclaimed that as God He had authority over life and death. He states in John 11:25, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and he who believes in me will never die." The resurrection is proof that His claim is true.
Many skeptics have presented alternative theories to the resurrection. Some of the most famous include: the theory that the disciples stole the body, the disciples went to the wrong tomb, the disciples hallucinated the resurrection, Jesus did not die but went unconscious on the cross, and the most recent theory is that wild dogs ate the body of Jesus.
However, these arguments have been shown to be severely flawed and could not account for all the facts surrounding the events of the resurrection. Many have done detailed analysis of the evidence and have concluded that the resurrection must be a historical event. The late Simon Greenleaf, the former Royal Professor of Law at Harvard, performed one of the most famous of these studies. In his book, The Testimony of the Evangelists, the Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence, he concluded,
They had every possible motive to review carefully the grounds of their faith and the evidences of the great facts and truths which they asserted; . . . It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact.
As an atheist, lawyer and journalist Lee Strobel did a two-year investigation on the resurrection interviewing some of the great scholars on both sides. He finally concluded in his book The Case for Christ,
In light of the convincing facts I had learned during my investigation, in the face of this overwhelming avalanche of evidence in the case for Christ, the great irony was this, it would require much more faith for me to maintain my atheism that to trust in Jesus of Nazareth.6
No one has been able to conquer death by raising himself or herself from the dead. Jesus by His resurrection proves He is God. For only God, the giver of life has the authority over life and death. Since Jesus substantiates His claims, we conclude He is divine and what He teaches is true and authoritative.
Jesus also taught the Bible to be God's Word. Therefore, the Bible is the foundation for all truth to all of mankind in every culture and for all time. Any teaching that is contrary to those of Jesus and the Bible are false.7
Because I Have Experienced It
Jesus Christ and the truths of the Bible are not simply facts to be stored in our minds, they are truths that we are invited to experience in a personal way. God invites us to a personal relationship with Him. The evidence points convincingly toward Jesus Christ. After reviewing the evidence, we each must make the decision to move in the direction the evidence is pointing. It is then that we experience the reality of God in our lives. Although an individual's experience is a subjective thing, it is part of the proofs that authenticate faith.
When I first heard that the God of the universe loved me and desperately wanted a relationship with me, I thought it was the greatest news I ever heard. As I began to share my newfound discovery, I met scholars who seemed to have convincing proof that this was all a religious fantasy.
As I searched for answers I came across several Christian scholars who were able to defend the authority of the Bible and the claims of Christ. As I weighed the arguments and questioned men and women on both sides, I could not deny the overwhelming evidence that supported the Bible and the claims of Christ. Eventually I came to the conclusion that Jesus Christ is Lord.
I then realized it was time for a decision. Often we do not have all the answers, but we move in the direction in which the evidence is pointing. For example, many of us do not really know for sure if the person we are marrying is the right one. However, we make our decision based on the evidence we see at the time. If I find that I can communicate with my fiancé, our personalities are compatible, and that we share the same values, we move in the direction in which the evidence is pointing. When we make the commitment to marry, then our decision is confirmed definitively. Till we make the commitment, we base our decision on the evidence at hand. The same is true with becoming a Christian. Although we do not have all the answers, we can have enough faith to make a decision. When we commit our lives to Christ, we then experience the fullness of a relationship with the risen Savior.
It was then that I made the conscious decision to believe in Jesus Christ. I asked Christ to forgive my sin and invited Him to be the Lord of my life. Although nothing dramatic happened, I knew I had changed. I experienced the peace that comes from knowing your sins are forgiven. I experienced the joy of knowing I was placed here with a purpose and that there is meaning to my existence. Although I still had some questions, sins that I struggled with, and difficult trials, I had an ever-abiding peace and joy I had never had before.
The more I studied the Bible, the more the world around me began to make sense. I gained a new understanding in all my academic studies. The complexity of life on earth, biological organisms, and planets reflected the character and intelligence of a loving Creator who wants us to enjoy His creation.
My struggles in relationships were the results of selfishness, and a sinful attitude in my heart. Once I began to follow the principles of Christ's love, my friendships became much more meaningful and joyous, not competitive. I experienced freedom from living up to others' expectations because the God of the universe loved me just for who I was.
I experienced the reality of the Bible promises as I applied them to my life. My faith continues to grow each time I see that God's truth works in every day life. The more time I spend with God in prayer, in study, and in worship, the stronger my faith becomes.
How do I know Christianity is true? The facts behind it along with my experience of God's promises confirm it.
1. Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. (New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing, 1960), 45.
2. For more extensive discussion read the Probe article, "Evidence for God's Existence " by Sue Bohlin.
3. Albright, William. Archaeology and the Religion of Israel. (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins, 1953), 176.
4. For more extensive discussion read my Probe article, "The Authority of the Bible."
5. For more extensive discussion read my Probe article, "The Uniqueness of Christ."
6. Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1998), 265.
7. For more extensive discussion on the resurrection read my Probe article, "The Resurrection: Fact or Fiction."
Boa, Kenneth. I Am Glad You Asked. (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor Books, 1994).
Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994).
Geisler, Norman. When Skeptics Ask. (Wheaton, IL: Victor Press, 1989).
Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. (New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing, 1960).
McGrath, Alister. Intellectuals Don't Need God and Other Modern Myths. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1993).
Moreland, J.P. Scaling the Secular City. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987).
Murray, Michael J., ed. Reason for the Hope Within. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1999).
Nash, Ronald. Faith and Reason. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1988).
Probe Mind Games Notebook. (Probe Ministries International, 1998).
Stroebel, Lee. The Case for Faith. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 2000).
Zukeran, Patrick. Unless I See. . . Reasons to Consider the Christian Faith. (Dallas, TX: Brown Books, 2000).
Nash, Ronald. Worldviews In Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1992).
Phillips, W. Gary, and William E. Brown. Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview. (Salem, WI, 1996).
Sire, James. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, third ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997).
Note: Material on the subjects below can also be found under the "Apologetics General" heading above.
The Existence of God
Jastrow, Robert. God and the Astronomers. (New York, NY: Norton & Company, 1978).
Dembski, Bill. Intelligent Design. (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999).
Evans, C. Stephen. The Quest for Faith: Reason and Mystery as Pointers to God. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986).
Kreeft, Peter and Ronald Tacelli. Handbook of Christian Apologetics. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994).
Moreland, J.P. The Creation Hypothesis. (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994).
Ross, Hugh. The Creator and the Cosmos. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress Publishing, 1993).
Zacharias, Ravi. Can Man Live Without God? (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1994).
Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983).
Geisler, Norman, and William Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1986).
McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict. (San Bernadino, CA: Here's Life Publishers, 1972).
_______. More Evidence That Demands a Verdict. (San Bernadino, CA: Here's Life Publishers, 1975).
Price, Randall. The Stones Cry Out. (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1997).
Greenleaf, Simon. The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence.
(Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1995).
LaHaye, Tim. Jesus, Who Is He? (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 1996).
McDowell, Josh. The Resurrection Factor. (San Bernardino, CA: Here's Life Publishers, 1981).
Morison, Frank. Who Moved the Stone? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1958).
Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1998).
Is Jesus the Only Way?
Anderson, Norman. Christianity and the World Religions. (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996).
Carson, Donald. The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1996).
Nash, Ronald. Is Jesus the Only Savior? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1994).
Netland, Harold. Dissonant Voices. (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 1991).
Okholm, Dennis. Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1995).
Richard, Ramesh. The Population of Heaven. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1994).
©2002 Probe Ministries.
The original version of this article is found at www.probe.org/how-i-know-christianity-is-true/. Articles and answers on lots of topics at Probe.org.
Related Topics: Apologetics, Christology, Inspiration, Prophecy/Revelation, Resurrection, Worldview