Unlike Some Religions, Christianity Invites Investigation
How can we know Christianity is true? How can we know any religion is true, for that matter? We can look to the facts surrounding their founding. When we do that, we find there’s something uniquely different about Christianity: it truly invites investigation.
Buddhism is a philosophy whose beliefs are hard to put to any objective test. Islam was founded by one man claiming to receive a private revelation. So was Mormonism. Suppose we wanted to check their beliefs against hard facts. There’s not a whole lot there to look into.
Christianity is also founded on one man claiming to be God. And yes, He does command your trust as your God and creator. If our knowledge were based on that alone it would be hard to tell whether His claims had any more substance than any other religious founder’s.
Yet differences exist. Big ones. They become clear when you take a look at the biblical authors’ approach to the facts. Rather than falling back on claims of divine authority and declaring “Believe, because I said so,” the biblical authors say, “Take a look for yourself!”
Christianity invites investigation.
In his first letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul addresses the bodily resurrection of Jesus to a culture steeped in pagan philosophy and mythology:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:3-6)
Paul is reminding the church of the basic foundation that he laid when he was with them in Corinth. In fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures, Jesus Christ of Nazareth was murdered, buried and resurrected to claim a people for Himself. The Corinthians didn’t merely have hearsay and rumors to rely on. They could go and ask actual witnesses. While some of those witnesses had fallen asleep (died), others still lived to tell the story of what they’d seen and experienced. Paul’s appeal to eyewitnesses here mirrors the Gospel writers’ practices. Frequently in their accounts, names of seemingly inconsequential people are given to add some extra emphasis to the eyewitness accounts. To put it another way — “If you don’t believe me, go ask this guy.” Real persons’ experiences solidify the real resurrection of Jesus from the tomb.
Paul goes a step further as he continues:
If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:14-15, 17, 19)
Let me paraphrase that:
If Christ was not raised from the dead, then Christianity is pointless. Did you hear that? If you have given your life for a cause still six feet under, then you’re in a totally pitiable and pathetic shape. Okay, maybe you think the Christian life is still worth living even if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, because of the “family values” and “strong morals” it breeds. If so, you’re welcome to it. But don’t call it Christianity. That’s misrepresenting God.
The biblical authors staked the future of the Christian religion on a historical event that did not happen in a corner. They opened Christianity up to scrutiny unlike any other religion. The followers of Muhammad, Buddha and Joseph Smith point to their leaders’ enlightened, mystical authority; we base our confidence in no small degree on the historical record of our founding, especially our Founder’s life, death and resurrection.
Christianity still invites investigation. Other religions say, “Believe it because of what our founder said.” Christianity says, “Take a look for yourself.”