Wednesday, July 27, 2005

How do I know Christianity is real?

I often have people ask me questions about my faith. They usually try to corner me with moral questions, much like the Pharisees did with Jesus. It's funny how things don't change. A close second to the usual morality questions is this question, "How do you know it's real?" It got me thinking a little bit about what it takes to reject Christ. Not believing in Christ is a very complex undertaking. I think that's one thing that helps me see that it's real... Christianity is so very simple. At least, it is when we don't try to fill it up with rules and complications. That's one of Satan's favorite methods of keeping people away from the church, or if that doesn't work, to at least reduce the church's effectiveness. This is why people at work ask these questions. They often don't fully realize it, but what they're trying to do is prove to themselves that Christianity is too complicated to be true. Let me explain...

Almost a year ago now, I took my first and so far only philosophy class. It was one of those required things you need to graduate. The class title was "Theories of Science and Technology". As a student at a techie school I thought, "Aha! Another cute way of trying to tie in a general education class with technology, so students will say the class was 'relevant' on their course evaluations." Although the class and the book made every attempt to steer me away from God, both in fact ended up tying Christianity, science, and philosophy together in a way I never thought possible. The class was amazing; nothing short of life changing. Not nearly as life changing as having Christ save me, but it had quite an impact.

The core book for the class was Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It made the 100-most-influential-books-since-WWII list by The Times Literary Supplement. If you have any interest in philosophy and have taken physics at a level high enough to touch on Einstein's work, this book should be on your must read list. If you are interested in philosophy and have not taken enough physics, its still a must read, but you might consider studying up on your theory of relativity, or some college level physics at least. But if you have any sciences under your belt, even from high school, they will help.

The book is about how old scientific paradigms get replaced with new ones (I've heard that Kuhn is credited for bringing the word "paradigm" into common use), and I realized that the way unbelievers come to believe in Christ is similar. It happens when the old paradigm becomes too complex. Take Ptolemaic astronomy, which is the theory that everything revolves around the earth. From our standpoint from earth at the time, it seemed the most logical theory. From our point of reference, the moon, the sun, and even the stars all circled the earth. All was well, and simple. But then we discovered Venus (or Mars... I don't know which was first). Now suddenly we had something that didn't move in a nice circle around the earth. Scientists scratched their heads and got a little nervous. This discovery didn't fit the paradigm. Fortunately, mathematicians came to the rescue and found a formula that fit the pattern of motion of Venus relative to the earth. Whew. Ok, the paradigm was well again. But then more planets were discovered. Ah, but no problem. Mathematicians came up with a formula for each one. But the farther away the planet, the more ugly its orbit became. Mercury was doing loops inside of loops inside of loops. Sure, we could come up with a formula that fits, but it’s just complex and messy. People had suggested that the sun was at the center before, but they were not taken seriously. Until now. The old paradigm was finally so ugly that we were ready, even desperate, for a new one. The old theory went out kicking and screaming as doubters doubted, but today everyone has faith that the sun is at center of the solar system. Ahhh. Simple. Everything goes in circles (sort of) again. No more loopdiloops. The old paradigm is gone, and the new one was gradually accepted.

Einstein was similar. Good old Sir Isaac Newton's laws were getting complicated in the late 19th century and early 20th. Newtons laws worked great when dealing with rocks and trains and bowling balls. Big things that move slowly. But by this time we were starting to look at little things that moved fast, approaching the speed of light (like atoms, and the parts of atoms like electrons), and they weren't behaving. Things were getting ugly. Then Einstein discovered relativity, and ahhh, things were simple again. We have something that works for all things, big or small, fast or slow. Had Einstein proposed relativity 50 years earlier, he would have been laughed away. We had to have a crisis for a new solution to be welcome. Today, this theory is still new enough (not quite 100 years old) that it hasn't fully gained public acceptance, but there are no longer credible unbelieving scientists.

Christianity is like that. Very simple. So simple, the entire Bible can be summed up in one word. The Word. The Word is Christ. Not believing in God is very messy. You have to come up with wild, complicated things to try to explain things. To believe in God and not Christ, or the full power of Christ to provide salvation by faith alone, is complicated too. Most religions are complicated. They have rules, rules, and more rules, and customs and explanations. In the time before Christ dwelled physically on earth with us, things were complicated too, for the same reason. The Mosaic Law (found in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) had many rules, and no one could follow them perfectly. But it was all part of the plan. We needed a crisis for the new solution to really seem like good news. Christianity just has Christ. It seems too simple. Only when God finally (often gradually) opens our eyes to the ugly complexities of trying to explain Him away, and of trying to be "good" on our own, are we finally ready for the new paradigm... the only true one... the good news of Christ, God's only Son, being born, executed, and raised from the dead as the only possible way for us to escape the eternal punishment that we've earned.

There are many ways that I know Christianity is real. This one sort of popped into my head today. Ultimately, it’s a faith thing. Isn’t every paradigm a faith thing? I hope this helps someone a little bit. It helped me a little, I think.

If you are not familiar with the Bible, this is a good place to start. It's the first chapter of the book of John. If you get through that, there's a little arrow at the bottom to get to chapter 2, and so on. Probably the other good one to look at first, or second, or so, would be Romans. Again, you can flick from chapter to chapter with the arrows at the bottom.


Blogger Miguel Juan said...

Hi... first time through here....
Very interesting and I do respect your point of view; after all I'm Catholic. But, Christianity is simple(as you say) and it is complex. I have studied Theology of many religions and the most important thing is that they all follow a path to God. So, it does not matter what you believe in because unless you're an atheist, you believe in God. And it doesn't matter what you call Him: God, Alah, Source, Energy, etc...
Christianity has a peculiar belief in Jesus as the Son of God who "resurrected". But think about it, and I have asked many priests who must agree, Does it really matter if he did not die on the cross as some claim? Does it really matter if he was married with kids? People place too much emphasis on this when the bottom line is what he left us: "TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS GOD LOVES US". Now, that is a simple truth that fits into any religion. And actually, most religions have some type of phrase that fits this one.
So, I'm glad that you even write about this because most people are afraid to express their thoughts. Remember that we are all individuals created uniquely by God. Even more so, since all paths lead to God (some faster than others), shouldn't there be as many religions as there are people? After all, we are all different...
I hope my thoughts are not offensive to anyone since it's not my purpose. This is just a bit of my mind, a free mind...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005  
Blogger AndyOfVermont said...

Miguel, thanks for the comment! Yes, I hope everyone feels free to express themselves here.

To respond to you, I would like to point out that you are missing a very important point; that of mankind's depravity. Every person who has lived, except Christ because He is God the Son, has sinned against God, and therefore deserves hell. Therefore, we need a solution. The solution is that someone else died for us, the only one that was and is without sin. We must believe in Christ. There is no other way to God. If Christ did not die and rise again as He did, God would still be God, but mankind would have no hope at all.

This is what I mean by a crisis being necessary. If we don't understand our sin, we don't understand what is so great about this solution, Christ. We can't come to God until we understand that we are sinners before God.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005  
Blogger amie-j said...

Good reading AndyofVermont!!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005  
Blogger AndyOfVermont said...

Danke :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005  
Blogger Benny K said...

It's hard to comment on such a thoughtful, insightful post, but for all it's worth - thanks! That was very enjoyable and inspiring.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005  
Blogger Buffalo said...

A belief in a supreme being is anything but simple. A belief in Christianity is even less simple.

You presented your point of view very well. Your conclusion, imo, are in error.

But my philosophy is that everyone should believe whatever it takes to help them make it through the night.

Thursday, August 04, 2005  
Blogger AndyOfVermont said...

Well, thankyou for the comment, Buffalo. Although we clearly disagree it is really fun to see that someone has been reading. I won't worry about trying to persuade you; I see by your profile that your mind is closed to the idea of there being only one way. No problem. If you do have any interest in seeing where my ideas come from you need only to click the links to Bible references that I put in my response to Miguel Juan. I hope you keep stopping by and I'll be sure to check you out periodically.

Peace :)

Friday, August 05, 2005  
Blogger Buffalo said...

Well spoken, well said and most appreciated, Andy.

Friday, August 05, 2005  
Blogger mama bear said...

I really enjoyed reading your thoughts here. They are accurate and simply stated. Thanks for sharing on a subject that is very much of interest to a lot of us.

Friday, August 12, 2005  
Anonymous Dollbabe said...

it is not a simple religion, the bible is longer than Old Yeller

Friday, September 23, 2005  
Blogger AndyOfVermont said...

Oh! Thank you for reading, and commenting. Well, you're right. The Bible is big and full of complexities. But the funny thing is... as one studies it, one finds that its really about one thing: Christ taking our punishment, and our faith in him, as the only possible solution to our hell-deserving predicament inherited from Adam. Basically, that's what every page boils down to. In that sense, its very simple. The Bible seems to be long mainly in order to cover every aspect of the history of Christ coming, and to drill that truth into us over and over. Its like kids... even as adults repetition helps us "get it".

So dont' get me wrong... certainly the Bible is rich and complex. But everyone knows that. It is also, in another sense, profoundly simple and that is less known. Its something I've only been discovering lately, after 20 years or so of being a Christian, and a lifetime (30 years) of being directly exposed to Christianity (via family). There's no reason it should have taken this long; I guess I was just blinded to it a little longer than some. So in this article I was emphasizing that aspect.

I'd love to discuss it more if you're interested... you can either comment again or email me.

Friday, September 23, 2005  
Blogger AndyOfVermont said...

Oh, by the way, I didn't know Old Yeller was so long! I've never read that... maybe I should add it to the reading list that I'm not working on. ;)

Friday, September 23, 2005  

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