Christianity rests on two major premises. The first is that there is a God and the second is that Jesus as God incarnate lived, died, and rose from the dead. In order to disprove Christianity, or at least make somebody question it, one simply has to disprove one of those two premises or at least demonstrate that there is no good reason to believe those two premises.
If somebody disproves the existence of God (or at least removes all good reasons to believe in one), then I would suddenly have to question any possible reason to believe Jesus as God incarnate lived, died, and rose from the dead. No God means no Jesus as God incarnate. Even if theistic belief can be proven to be rational but belief in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is proven to be unjustified, then even though my theistic belief remains intact, my Christian theistic belief has no justification.
Given the centuries of debate surrounding the truth of Christianity, one would think that the debate would be entirely focused on these two premises by now. Yet as I interact with skeptics of Christianity, and even as I questioned my own faith, I found just how easy it is to be lost amidst a turbulent (and unfocused) sea of skeptical doubt composed of arguments that sound like they devastate the Christian faith but really lead nowhere.
If my faith (defined as my composition of religious beliefs) rests on the two premises that God exists and that Jesus lived, died, and rose again then questioning the inerrancy of Scripture, the tale of Noah’s flood, or suggesting that the God of the Old Testament was unjust and genocidal does not actually lead me to doubt those two fundamental premises to Christianity if I have independent reasons to believe them.
For the sake of argument, it is logically possible that Genesis is nothing more than myths, the canon of Scripture contains factual errors, and that the Old Testament accounts of God were somehow erred in their depiction of God as an unjust tyrant. Those things could, in theory, all be true and yet I could conceivably have rational justification for both theistic belief as well as the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as God incarnate.
So for the sake of bringing some clarity to the debate over Christianity, I decided to compile a list of the three essential ways to make me question my faith.
1. Prove That There Need Not Be a Creator
In order to prove this, someone would need to prove that the universe has existed and been in motion for an eternity. This would require an infinite amount of events to be traversed before the moment in which we currently exist. This seems logically impossible, but if someone can prove that it is possible then there would be no need to believe in a creator to create and set the universe in motion if we could demonstrate that the universe always has existed.
Additionally a skeptic would need to prove that any appearance of fine tuning or intelligent design in the universe is either a happy coincidence or an illusion. If the skeptic can prove this in addition to proving that there need not be a first cause, then there is a good case to be made that we can explain the existence of the universe without invoking a creator.
Finally, I would need to be persuaded that life and consciousness could both come to exist without a creator. As it is now, I fail to see how natural forces could cause these two phenomena, so I would need to be persuaded otherwise.
Failing to address these issues potentially leaves reason to believe that there is some sort of agency as a cause for the universe. Notice what is absent here. I did not state that proving the earth is millions of years old or that all organisms share a common ancestor would make me question my theistic belief. The list of reasons that the I provided for why I believe in a creator has absolutely nothing to do with the age of the earth or the theory of evolution.
2. Demonstrate That Ethical Considerations Either Disprove or At Least Do Not Necessitate the Existence of God
The quickest way to do this is through the problem of evil. Show how God undisputedly could have created rational agents capable of moral accountability without allowing them the possibility to do evil. If this can be done, then any omnipotent, omniscient, maximally good being certainly could not exist given our current experience of evil because he certainly would have created a world without it.
But if the skeptic cannot entirely disprove God through the problem of evil, then the skeptic must at least account for a satisfying ethical system that can exist apart from God. As I look around the world, I see things that appear objectively good and bad. I see some human actions that are morally beautiful and others that are not. I cannot imagine the possibility that good could be bad and vice versa if our human standards changed. I perceive an ethical reality fixed in nature that requires purpose from a creator.
The skeptic must, therefore, prove that this appearance of ethical reality is an illusion, or that a naturalistic system could account for such ethics.
Notice I didn’t mention that the skeptic needs to prove that church-goers are hypocrites or that Christians do awful things sometimes. Ultimately, there is not a single person in existence who acts completely consistently with their worldview whether atheist or Christian. Therefore, we should not be surprised to find Christians who act according to their sinful human nature despite their belief in Christianity which teaches against sinful human nature. Hypocrisy or wrongdoing on the part of Christians, though entirely impermissible, does not actually have any bearing on ethical considerations that point to the existence of God.
3. Prove That Christianity Could Have Started In the Same Way as History Indicates Without Jesus Being God incarnate
The most certain way to prove this is by suggesting that Jesus never existed. This is about as historically serious as claiming Lincoln never existed, but I guess it is possible in theory.
But whether or not the skeptic concedes Jesus’ existence in history, he must account for the testimonies surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as well as the testimony and extreme efforts of the early Church in a way that demonstrates why so many people would hold beliefs that were so easily falsifiable if they were not true.
The skeptic must either discredit all testimony surrounding Jesus by proving that it was so long after the fact that the testimony could easily have been false and nobody would have the experience to prove it. Or the skeptic must prove some sort of conspiracy on the part of the Gospel authors and the early Christians. Given the abundance of internal and external evidence corroborating the Gospel accounts which places them at an early date and the sacrifice displayed by the apostles and early Christians who often gave their lives for their message, this is a hefty task. But, again, it is theoretically possible.
If the skeptic cannot prove that the Gospels were either written too late or written with an ulterior agenda, then the skeptic must explain and persuade me that even though the Gospels were written within a couple to several decades after Jesus’ death by men who believed what they wrote, it was possible for them to testify about fantastic, public miracles even though they, and apparently the rest of the public, were deceived about what they had witnessed during the life, death, and alleged resurrection of Christ.
This leads us to the famous trilemma. Either Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord of all creation. The skeptic must prove one of the first two options, and how the disciples could possibly sincerely believe in and spread a religion based on belief in the third option without the general public catching on and proving them wrong.
How Not to Make Me Question My Faith
Having provided a list of the things on which my faith firmly rests and a way to undermine the foundation, I think it is also necessary to point out a few things that don’t work as far as disproving Christianity goes. Having seen the reasons why I hold the beliefs that I do, any skeptic who claims that I’m only a Christian because I was raised by Christians in a Christian society clearly wasn’t listening very closely, is only interested in cheap sophistry, or is somewhat, shall we say, dense.
Additionally, pointing out that there are thousands of religions doesn’t do anything to make me question my faith either. I just stated why I chose the religion that I chose. It is the only religion based on historically public, falsifiable facts. Hence why I believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus rather than Thor. Suggesting that Christianity must be false because there are so many other religions completely misses the point.
Let me also be clear that I am aware of the fact that everybody from every religion thinks their religious experiences are authentic. I also think my religious experiences are authentic. But merely pointing out that my religious experiences may be inauthentic in light of the billions of people who claim to have religious experiences that contradict mine ignores the reason why I am a Christian. I am not a Christian because I have religious experience. I validate my religious experience based on what I rationally believe.
Finally, responding to a claim about the existence of God or the resurrection of Jesus by scoffing at the idea of Noah’s Ark doesn’t do much to help the skeptic’s cause. And no, I don’t want to hear cheap caricatures of Christianity either. The fact that a skeptic finds my beliefs ridiculous doesn’t actually address any of the reasons I have for my faith. It just means that there is someone who disagrees with me.
If a skeptic can take on the project of disproving one of the two main premises of my faith by demonstrating that they are false or at least by demonstrating that there are no good reasons to believe them, then I as a person concerned with finding truth will quickly and readily reconsider my faith. If, however, the skeptic cannot find good reasons to doubt the existence of God or the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, then if they are being rational they must consider the truth of Christianity. It doesn’t matter how anybody feels about the idea of Christianity, what matters is why they think it is true or false.
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