The Best Way to Evaluate Christianity

Jon Marshall —  July 22, 2013 — 2 Comments

In my last post, I explained that Christians typically try to convince non-Christians of the truth of the Bible by proving its reliability textually and historically. But non-Christians have another way of evaluating Christianity: they want to know if they can trust the Bible morally.

whitecrossIt doesn’t occur to me to answer that question for one main reason. I have lived so long inside the Christian worldview that I forget how different our religion is. Most religions and philosophies aim to change behavior from bad to good in order to please God, be a good citizen, or feel good daily. Christianity, on the other hand, only tries to prove that something happened historically. Once you’ve proved that, you work backwards to prove the rest.  My question is “Is Jesus God who rose from the dead?” Once I answer that question then I can assume that God knows how I ought to live.

Here’s why this is great news. When a person simply evaluates from their own perspective whether or not a certain philosophy or religion will make them “good,” “please God,” or “feel good,” they’re doing the best they can. But they’re basically just reflecting the current wisdom of their friends and family and media. They cannot rise above their culture because they’re stuck in it; just like a fish couldn’t imagine walking on land because his whole world involves water. When Christianity comes along with its way of “being good,” “pleasing God,” and “feeling good daily,” the wisdom comes from another world. It’s not up for debate or evaluation because we humbly realize that God is speaking (as opposed to humans, who should be critiqued).

We evaluate the trustworthiness of our religion in a completely different way. It has very little to do with personal experience, whether it seems to work, whether it makes me feel like I’m a good person, whether I get personal peace. (It will do pretty much all of that for you even though that’s not the point.)

Evaluating Christianity goes like this: Did Jesus die as a historical event? Did he rise from the dead? If so, then he must have been someone very important. What did he say about himself? Did God approve of his message? Jesus claimed to be God. And when God lets Jesus come back to life, that seems like a pretty significant endorsement of what Jesus said. Now, with that in mind, how did Jesus say we get on good terms with God? How did he command us to live? Our aim is to figure that out, respond accordingly, and assume that God knows best how to be good rather than bad, how to please God, and how to feel good today. History comes first, and all the practical stuff is the natural result.

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Jon Marshall

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Jon lives in Culver City with his wife and three little children. They’re trying to plant a new church and enjoying watching God do amazing things. Jon loves to teach people about Jesus and how to live and communicate his message today. Jon enjoys playing with his children, dating his wife, playing volleyball, surfing, walking, hiking, and spending time with people. Jon has his Ph.D. in Theological Studies (New Testament) from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
  • Malone

    This is fantastic. I love it. The understanding that Christianity is a historically based, reality based thing is extremely important. I do have a question: How does all this relate to evangelism and communicating the truth of Christianity to people who do not believe?

    I traditionally have preferred the method of evaluation described above. When I talk to people I usually steer away from personal experience, emotional proof, or moral evidence. Recently, I met a man who had some really good questions about Christianity. Some theological, some biblical interpretation, etc. I gladly responded with what I believe and what the Bible says. When the conversation elevated to the full on evaluation of the faith itself, he communicated is supposedly historical evidence that Jesus was a sham. I pushed back with some things I have looked into that support the historical reliability of Jesus and the Bible. The man had nothing to do with it. A friend of mine was with me and began to ask more internal questions… What do you want? What are you fighting against? What are you searching for? The man was blown away and had nothing to say in argument against the idea that he was hurt once and has used that against Christianity…. That he was unfulfilled in life and the promise of fulfillment in Jesus was indeed better than his beliefs.

    I was also blown away. My friend cut to the heart of the issue, not the intellectual evaluation of reliability that I thought the conversation was about.

    So, when is this evaluation important? What kind of people is it good for? Is this the primary means of evangelism or is it only for believers who want to investigate/disprove their own doubts… or something else entirely?

    Thanks again for the post! It was very encouraging.

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