Why Believe in Christianity Over Other Religions?
In a comment on one of my blog posts I was asked the following question:
“So Christians, why is your religion more valid, than say, Hinduism? Judaism? Islamicism? Buddhism? Sikhism? What is so veeeery believable about Christianity that you take it above all other religions?”
This is a very good question. It is first important to establish that not all religions can be correct. They make exclusive truth claims so that they are in clear contradiction. They can’t all be true. If one is right, the others are wrong. Greg Koukl explains this well in the following video:
So if all religions are not equally valid, then how can we know if one or any of them are correct? Why do I think that Christianity is correct and the others are wrong? This is the question I hope to give an answer for in this blog post.
There are many important differences between Christianity and the other religions. I pointed out a few in a previous blog, (such as how Christianity is unique in the fact that is about God coming to man instead of man trying to earn our way to God). However, I thought this question was worthy of some deeper discussion.
Christianity is also very unique in that it is the only faith that actually addresses and deals with the problem of our sin. The reality is that there are no “good people”. It doesn’t matter what your faith is, you aren’t good by God’s standard. Everyone falls short. God doesn’t have to save any of us. In fact, He shouldn’t. If He overlooked our crimes He would be acting unjustly. He cannot remain holy and be unjust. The only way God can remain just and we can go free is for someone to pay our penalty for us. But, this can’t just be another person. They aren’t qualified. They have their own sin. No, the only way would be for God, Himself, to pay it for us. He is the only one who is qualified. He alone is perfect and without His own sin.
This is why other religions cannot offer salvation. They do not successfully deal with the problem of our sin. They have no one who is qualified to pay the debt caused by our sin. It is only Jesus, the God-man, who can step in between you and God and pay this penalty. No other person can do this. Other religions teach you must earn favor and merit from God by the good things you do. However, this does not pay for the bad things you have already done. We instinctively know this is true. If I am found guilty of murder by a jury and I stand up to give my last remarks before I am sentenced and I tell the judge, “Yes I did it, but I have been so good since then. I have walked old ladies across the street and worked at the local food bank”, what do you think the judge would say? He would respond, “Yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that you committed this crime. You must pay the penalty for it.” It is the same with our crimes against God. Being a “good person” doesn’t erase them. They must be paid for. Only Jesus can do this.
All of this is good, but the person who commented on my blog asked a very valid question when they said, “What is so veeeery believable about Christianity that you take it above all other religions?” I think this is the question that everyone should ask about all the religions. How can you know they are true? How can they be tested? It isn’t enough to just believe in something, it is crucial that what we choose to believe in is actually real, that it is actually factual. This is where Christianity is so strong. Unlike the other religions, Christianity hinges on a historical event: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If this didn’t really happen, if it isn’t a historical fact, then we might as well believe in an invisible pink unicorn as our savior! This is exactly what the Apostle Paul claimed . . .
“And 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 about God that he raised Christ. . .” ~ 1 Cor 15:14-15
So, Christianity gives us a truth test. No other religion does this. There is no other faith that hinges on a historical event this way. But how can we know if the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus actually happened? We can approach this question the same way historians do when they research historical events. We can look at all of the evidence available, establish what the known facts are, and see which possible account of events best lines up with these facts. The following is a list of twelve facts, concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus, that can be clearly shown to be historical realities. These facts are virtually universally accepted as true by historians and scholars (even by those who are not Christians). If you are interested in statements from historians and scholars, you can see many examples here.
- Jesus died by Roman crucifixion.
- He was buried.
- Soon afterwards the disciples were discouraged, bereaved and despondent, having lost hope.
- Jesus’ tomb was found empty very soon after his interment.
- The disciples had experiences that they believed were the actual appearances of the risen Christ. These experiences occurred to both individuals and groups of people.
- Due to these experiences, the disciples lives were thoroughly transformed from doubters who were afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold proclaimers of his death and resurrection. They were even willing to die for their belief.
- The proclamation of the Resurrection took place very early, from the beginning of church history.
- The disciple’s public testimony and preaching of the resurrection took place in the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus had been crucified and buried shortly before.
- The gospel message centered on the preaching of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
- Sunday was the primary day of worshiping and gathering.
- James, the brother of Jesus and a skeptic before this time, became a follower of Jesus when he believed he also saw the risen Jesus.
- Just a few years later, Paul became a believer, due to an experience that he also believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus.
You might at this point ask, “Yeah but how do I know those are really facts?” I don’t have the room here to explain the historical evidence for each of these points. But, the following short videos do a good job of summarizing the evidence:
Ok, so now we have some historical facts to go from. Now we need to look at the possible explanations for these facts and which one fits the best. Many people have put forward theories to try to explain the empty tomb of Jesus. The following 9 are the ones that have been considered the strongest possibilities. All of the following are serious theories that the opponents of the resurrection of Jesus have actually proposed to try to explain these well established facts:
- Wrong Tomb – The disciples simply mixed it up and went to the wrong tomb.
- This theory does not satisfy facts 5-12 from the above list.
- Legend – This is just something that people made up after the fact.
- None of the facts are satisfied by this theory.
- Twin – Jesus had a secret identical twin who pretended to be the risen Christ after Jesus’ death.
- Fails to explain facts 4 and 11.
- Hallucination – The disciples hallucinated seeing Jesus after his death.
- Fails to explain facts 5, 11, and 12.
- Existential/Spiritual Resurrection – The resurrection is not intended to be literal. It is a metaphor for what happens in our hearts.
- Doesn’t explain 4, 5, 11, or 12.
- Disciples Stole the Body
- Can’t explain facts 5, 6, 11, or 12.
- Authorities Hid the Body
- Cannot explain facts 5 – 12.
- “Swoon” Theory – Jesus did not die on the cross; he fainted from exhaustion. The cold temperature and spices revived him.
- Can’t satisfy 1 and 6. Additionally, medical science has determined that Jesus could not have survived the scourging and crucifixion.
- Alien Jesus – Jesus was from another advanced civilization and was “transported” back to his spacecraft, thus leaving the tomb empty. I’m not making this up. That’s actually a theory.
- This actually fits all the facts.
- Supernatural Resurrection – The biblical account is accurate and Jesus bodily rose from the dead.
- This explains all of the facts.
So, the available information demonstrates that the only two theories which satisfy all the known facts are either that Jesus was an alien, or he was truly resurrected in the body. Since Jesus claimed to be God and testified in advance that he would be resurrected, I think this points towards the last theory to be the most likely. Also, the alien theory has some trouble with fact 1 (that Jesus was crucified). It’s actually hard to believe I am really arguing against that theory.
The bottom line is that the biblical account of Jesus death, burial and resurrection passes the test of historical analysis. It is the only religion that has a proof test and can indeed pass it. If you would like more information on other testable facts that can demonstrate the reality of Jesus and the bible, I have written on this at length in this blog post:
Much of this information was taken with permission from:
Dr. Craig J. Hazen
Professor of Comparative Religion and Christian Apologetics at Biola University
13800 Biola Ave, La Mirada, CA 90639