I was once asked to provide a concise, no more than 1,000 word essay, on why I believe Christianity to be true. I think the hint was that I can be a little too verbose. 🙂 As I recall, this essay was well received, if only because it met the terms of the request. I just found it on my hard drive, sitting around and playing video games, and otherwise being unproductive. No sense in having that. It was originally posted on my forum. Feel free to use it yourself (with appropriate crediting, of course) and if you have questions, drop by the forum. Feel free to count the number of words. 🙂
Christianity in 1,000 words or less.
Any worldview that demands consideration needs to be consistent with the following elements:
1. It must be affirm the actuality of our existence, the reliability of our sensory perception, and reasonable interpretation of that perception.
2. It must affirm the existence of something eternal, as to believe that something can come from nothing strictly speaking undermines #1.
3. It must affirm the reality of our ability to make free choices, which again speaks to #1.
4. It must acknowledge and account for the observed fact that humans do bad things and consider the concept of ‘bad’ to be meaningful.
Christianity meets pre-requisite #1 and #3 by accepting that humans are created by God, and were declared ‘good.’
Christianity meets #2 by affirming that it is God that is the eternal thing, which consequently means the universe is contained within him, and yet is not him.
Though meeting #1-3 serves as important pre-requisites, it remains necessary still to demonstrate that Christianity is actual, and not merely consistent with a cogent epistemology.
#4 addresses a set of facts we observe, thus in Christianity’s addressing of those issues, this forms two areas of observational corroboration for Christianity’s worldview, rather than just being important propositions required for any cogent worldview.
Given the above, we can form some expectations we might have about how such a being might interact with his creation, and seek out evidence of the sort of revelation that can be reasonably expected within such a set of presumptions.
A system where the entity does have the desire to reveal itself to its creation must consist of order, patterns, and consistent physical laws. That way, the entity can satisfy a high epistemological threshold to verify that it is really this entity doing the communicating. I.e., for ‘miracles’ to exist, there have to be laws to be broken that we are unable, ever, to break.
That is the system we observe, and accounts of miracles exist, too. This is consistent with Christianity, and serves somewhat to provide empirical evidence for it in the sense of the physical laws being stable. Miracles could not be ‘empirical’ by definition, except insofar as they appear via the senses to those who observe them. Repeated ‘miracles’ would be indistinguishable from natural laws.
In a system that is contained within the eternal entity (here, God), this God has a limited means of communication while maintaining epistemological robustness. All types of communication choices have logical consequences that even this being could not avoid. He could appear directly to a person’s mind, or to a person’s senses. The more people he appears to at a time the more epistemological robust is the miracle and the stronger the historical argument that can be made for those who are not witnesses. In a ‘fallen world’ it may be beneficial or even necessary for this entity to assume a form within our system to give definitive witness to his existence, will, message, or purpose.
Christianity anticipates this and affirms that it actually happened in the person of Jesus. However, any person claiming to be God still needs to satisfy the high epistemological threshold, as explained above. One miracle that would do stands above all the rest by showing mastery over something that humanity will never be able to conquer: death.
‘Incarnations’ and ‘Resurrection’ stories are common in history, but Christianity has the advantage of being rooted in a historically falsifiable context. By submitting its central claim to potential falsification, it has an epistemological robustness that other similar claims do not have. Christianity therefore rises or falls based on whether Jesus really rose from the dead. Anything else associated with Christianity is credible only if the Resurrection is credible.
We can employ the historical method to authenticate the Resurrection. Briefly:
1. Jesus’ existence is attested to by Roman and Jewish historians as well as dozens, if not hundreds, of documents from those persuaded, emerging within 70 years of the resurrection event.
2. As the resurrection accounts were written no later than 30-40 years after the event, there would have been many people alive who could have refuted or challenged the basic arguments put forth by the first Christians. (None mention the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD, which Jesus is alleged to have predicted. It’s inconceivable that they would fail to mention an event that vindicates Jesus’ prophetic abilities so dramatically).
3. Paul argues his case through the Roman courts. These officials, whose existence is corroborated by Josephus, would have had the ability and resources to investigate his claims.
4. Christianity had its exponential growth begin in the very place where the Resurrection event is said to have occurred: Jerusalem (Acts 1-3). Anyone disputing the account at the time, only some weeks after the event, could have investigated the claims for themselves in the very place they were raised. At the very least, it is indisputable that Jesus’ body was missing.
5. Finally, Christianity arises within a population that would least support it- radical, militant, nationalistic, monotheistic Jews. For a Jew to believe that a man could be God is extraordinary, and yet all the first Christians were Jews. For a population that stoned people for blasphemy on a regular basis (and arranged Jesus’ crucifixion on precisely the same grounds), it’s a fundamental argument in Christianity’s favor that large numbers of this same population yet embraced an apparent blasphemous teaching. Some extraordinary reason is demanded.
In conclusion, Christianity is consistent with several important epistemological concerns, though these do not necessarily make it true. One of its chief strengths is that it opens itself up for falsification, so that one does not have to be pre-disposed one way or another on the question of the supernatural. Deny Christianity because you think the historical evidence for it is weak- not because you think the supernatural to be absurd. Accept Christianity is real because you think the historical evidence for it is sufficient, not because you want to believe in the supernatural.