Saturday, July 16, 2016

Six Reasons I’m Not a Christian (and One Good Reason I Am)


At first glance the title of this article may have caught some off guard. Why in the world a committed Christian (especially one who spends a great deal of time learning about and teaching about his faith) write an article with such a provocative title? Let me put your mind at ease (as the subtitle hopefully did at first glance.) I am, indeed, a devoted Christian. Moreover, I think you should be too and believe that it can stand up in the war of the worldviews.

I decided to ask myself a question I try to entertain on a regular basis, why am I a Christian? I believe that I have a good, intellectually honest answer. However, I believe that there are a lot of bad answers to this question. While not inherently bad starting points, a faith built solely on one or more of these bad answers will have a hard time withstanding the challenges of life and objections to Christianity. In fact, I believe that the reason members of my generation have abandoned their Christian faith may be because they held one of these faulty answers. This is not to say all is lost. Even starting from one of these answers, the Christian faith is defensible and can be supported from many angles. As you read this, if you are a Christian, I invite you to ask yourself “why am I a Christian?” If, perchance, you would not call yourself a Christian, then perhaps my conclusion at the end will be worth considering. Without further adieu, let’s jump in.

1. I am not a Christian because I was raised in a Christian home.


Please don’t get me wrong, my parents are amazing Christians. I have learned a lot from their example and testimony. However, if my parents had answered my questions about the faith with “because I said so” I would not be a Christian today. The mistake of this answer is that it makes the parents, and not the Bible and God, the end authority for Christianity. In a well-meaning attempt to shield their children from the pain of questioning their faith, parents who revert to this answer have made a grave error. A young person whose faith is founded in their family will have a hard time maintaining it when they leave the home.

2. I am not a Christian because it makes me feel good.


Christianity is all about love and joy! They are major facets of a Christian lifestyle. However, they are not the be all and end all of Christianity. If they are, the moment a young person feels grief, depression, or doubt, they will question the validity of their faith. Moreover, if Christianity is no more than feelings, any religion which manages to conjure up similar ecstasy must, logically, be equally true. A faith based on feelings can be discarded whenever those feelings cease or an alternative is found.

3. I am not a Christian because I had an experience with God.


Indeed, I have had amazing, supernatural experiences with God! But, if my faith were founded on these experiences alone, any religion which manages to conjure up similar experiences must, logically, be equally true. Please see the logic of number two and apply it to this reason. Experience cannot be a good answer to the question because experiences, like feelings, are entirely subjective.

4. I am not a Christian because it “works for me.”


Being a Christian is hard. Yes, Christianity features joy, peace, and awesome displays of God’s power (which we previously established as poor answers) but it also carries with it promises of persecution and hardship. (See John 15:18-25) If you’re interested in what it’s like to be a Christian outside of the blessings of the United States, considering reading the book Jesus Freaks. Christianity is hard and, at times, it doesn’t feel like (at least on this side of eternity) it’s working very well. If a faith is based solely on temporal pragmatism, it is in jeopardy as soon as persecution hits.

5. I am not a Christian because “God has a wonderful plan for my life.”


Does God have a wonderful plan for each of our lives? You bet! God uses everyone in weaving His magnificent tapestry of the world. As with number four, however, this wonderful plan may involve persecution, torture, or even death. We need to be careful when we say “wonderful plan” that we are speaking of God’s definition, not temporal prosperity. This answer falls short because, as soon as prosperity is threatened, it calls Christianity into question.

6. I am not a Christian because God is changing my life.


Don’t get me wrong! God has, and is, transforming me! Progressive sanctification is, by far, one of my favorite theological principles. However, if the truth of Christianity is gauged by whether we see God moving, it can call our faith into question during dry spells. (C.S. Lewis spoke of this in his excellent book The Screwtape Letters. Consider taking a look at chapter 8.) If my faith is solely based on seeing God’s hand, it would be brought into question whenever I can’t see Him working.

I am a Christian because Christianity is an objectively true worldview.


Christianity is more than just a religion. It is a worldview, a comprehensive way of viewing and interacting with all of reality. Christianity is founded on the Bible and the Bible makes a variety of truth claims about reality, God, humanity, and the order of history. The only good reason for believing any worldview is if it’s truth claims match reality. I would also clarify that Christianity cannot just be “true for you.” Its claims are diametrically opposed to the other major worldviews vying for our hearts and minds in today’s culture. I believe that Christianity’s truth claims cohere to the world around us. I further believe that they are internally consistent and can be lived out on a day-to-day basis. Do I have answers for every objection and question about Christianity? Hardly! That’s where faith comes in. I have faith that there are answers to these questions and, even if I can’t find those answers, I have a sufficient cumulative case for believing that they are held within the Christian worldview.

If your Christian faith is founded on subjective feelings, it will be drawn into question whenever those feelings are challenged or stop. However, if your faith is built on the objective, defendable truth of Scripture, it can be defended and explored when challenges are brought forth. Now I ask you the question I started out with: Christians, why are you a Christian? Is it because of one of the bad answers I raised above or because of the truth of the Christian worldview? If you are starting from one of these answers, don’t fret! I would invite you to explore the truth of Christianity and begin the process of grounding your faith in truth.

Non-Christians, if Christianity makes objective claims abut the nature of reality, would you be willing to examine them? Would you be willing to see if, perhaps, Christianity has some truth or, as I purport, the truth?

As always, I love hearing from the readers of this blog. If this post has challenged or encouraged you, please feel free to contact me! I want to know what you think! 
Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. – C.S. Lewis    
“I’ve often said I am not a Christian because it works for me. There are many days when the Christian life is the most difficult life I could choose to lead. It requires me to think of others first, to remember my true position relative to a Holy God and deny my selfish desires. I’m also not a Christian because I was raised in a Christian home. I wasn’t surrounded by practicing Christians as a child. I’m not a Christian because I was trying to fix a problem or because I was hoping for Heaven or afraid of Hell. None of these things animated me. I had a great life before becoming a Christian. I am a Christian today because I investigated the reliability of the Gospel accounts and determined Christianity was true. It’s really that simple. I’m a Christian for the same reasons I’m a not-Mormon. One system can be verified, the other only falsified. – Cold Case Detective J. Warner Wallace (The quote that, in part, inspired this article.) 
  

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Feel free to comment! One of the reasons I blog is to interact with my readers. Don't hesitate to leave your thoughts or contact me with any comments, questions, or concerns. - James