It’s very politically incorrect these days to claim that any one faith is the ultimate true description of reality, yet Christianity unblushingly makes this claim. Whilst all faiths contain elements that are ‘true’, Jesus said that no-one would be put right with God except through him: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This begs the question as to how someone honestly seeking truth can choose between the different belief systems on offer.
Some people suggest that all faiths ultimately lead to God. A brief survey of what the different faiths claim makes it clear that this cannot be the case. All the major world views contradict each other in fundamental ways. Buddhism and Atheism (a belief system based on faith not proof) deny the existence of God. Hindus and Sikhs believe there are many gods. Whilst Christianity and Islam both have their roots in the Jewish scriptures, Muslims say you have to work your way into heaven through good works whilst Christianity says you can never be put right with God through your own efforts, forgiveness must be received as a free gift. Christians claim that Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament and the ultimate revelation of God in human form whilst the Jews deny that and still await their Messiah who’ll fulfil the Biblical prophecies. These contradictions are not peripheral, they lie at the foundations of each of the belief systems and are irreconcilable with each other.
You cannot avoid holding beliefs about the world or you could never make significant decisions. Even scientific naturalists (who believe the laws of science are ultimate) rest their belief on huge assumptions (for example, that the material world is the sum total of all reality). The important question becomes ‘how can I verify my beliefs?’
THE UNIQUENESS OF CHRIST
Jesus is unique amongst the founders of the major religions. Buddha was an Eastern noble who developed his ideas through reflecting and meditating on the world around him. Similarly, Neitzcher, Satre, Russel and other leading Atheists drew their conclusions through academic reflection. Mohammed claimed that the Koran, the sacred book of Islam, was dictated to him by an angel. The Jewish Old Testament was written by prophets, teachers and historians who claimed to speak God’s words and record God’s acts. What all these leaders had in common was that they all claimed in their writing either to have discovered the truth about reality or to be writing on behalf of God.
What was different about Jesus is that he didn’t just claim to have insight or revelation about reality, he claimed to be God’s son, God in human flesh. Jesus doesn’t present just his teachings, but himself. He claimed not just to know about God but to be God. If his claim was true then Christianity is true and all contradicting beliefs are false. If his claim was false, then Christianity is false and should be rejected.
THE TESTABILITY OF CHRISTIANITY
Christianity is the most readily testable of the different belief systems. Buddhism, Islam and the various Atheistic worldviews simply present teaching with no corroborating evidence. Thus the only available tests for these beliefs are their internal consistency and the impact on their adherents. Hinduism and Sikhism are rooted in mythology and Eastern thought. They don’t conform to the basic principles of logic, (such as the rule of non-contradiction), and thus cannot in any meaningful sense be ‘tested’ to establish their ‘truth’ as a Western mind would conceive it.
Judaism and Christianity are different in as much as they don’t simply present teaching but are also historical faiths, citing examples of the direct intervention of God into world history. Thus as well as the tests of internal consistency and impact on adherents we can also scrutinise their historical accuracy. Did the events they report actually happen? Were the written prophecies realised in history?
Because of the magnitude of Jesus’ claims, he offered further evidence of his validity. He pointed to his fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies about himself, his own prophecies about the future, his miraculous powers and ultimately his resurrection from the dead. All these things can be investigated because they aren’t just ideas, but claim to be actual, historical events that really happened.
Both Jesus himself and the New Testament point to his rising from the dead as the proof of his authenticity. The case for the resurrection is extremely strong and has withstood two millennia of the closest scrutiny from very unsympathetic sources. If Jesus didn’t rise from the grave, Christianity crumbles. If he did, then all his claims about himself and his statements about us are true.
From this we can see that Christianity makes unique, exclusive and testable claims to hold the answers to God, life and death. Christianity, more than any other worldview, invites close scrutiny and investigation. If its claims are true, then Jesus is alive today and wanting to be involved with our lives. Christianity is testable, but it also has big implications. Before we can honestly and earnestly examine its truth, we must ask ourselves if we’re willing to embrace the implications if it is true.
Photo credit: Martin Gommel (Creative Commons)