Over time I have conversed with people holding different views on God, religion and Christianity. Regardless of my familiarity with a view, I have always engaged in the exchange of ideas and arguments about beliefs and convictions. I always tried to go after bad arguments or wrong reasoning, while respecting the person that held it, as well as their right to spread it to others. At times the tables turned, and I found myself needing to quickly explain why I am a Christian, but even more narrow a Protestant and even more narrow an evangelical.
Of course, a book could be written on Why I Am a Christian, but I usually don’t have a book and they usually don’t want to read one, they just want an answer (1 Peter 3:15). One challenge is to communicate simply and in understandable words. Depending upon my knowledge and abilities, sometimes I could do it well other times I struggled to remember a point or even pronounce a word. But at this stage in my life, I think I have codified as a direct and succinct answer as possible. Granted next year I may do better, but then again none of us knows for sure if we even have tomorrow, much less next year to say why we believe what we believe. So here goes . . .
First, let us get out of the way any notion that truth is what you or I make it to be or somehow truth when it comes to significant religious claims, is not able to be known with any degree of certainty. For to say, “all truth is perspectival,” is to assert a truth claim, that is either not dependent upon any perspective, that is objective or is just a perspective. Either way, it belongs in the trash can of self-defeating statements. Or to say, “no religion can demonstrate a central truth claim of their faith” is to put forward a claim, perhaps a faith itself, that at least requires a demonstration before it can be held as true. After all, one can study and see if there are any demonstrations of religious truth claims. Now I grant, that many things in religion are by faith, or we might say based on the authority of another and beyond demonstration as to why and how it is true. But some claims in religion certainly lend themselves to a demonstration and either succeed or fail, and this can be known if someone is inclined to learn it. But in any demonstration, we must follow the philosopher and remember truth is always what corresponds to reality and opposites cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense/relation. Hence, this moves me to three central truth claims that help answer why I am a Christian.
I am a Christian, first because everyone knows the same world of things, distinct from them, that exist and change. That is something undeniably exists, and those things change. The kind of change that goes from not existing to existing or existing to not existing. Just as the tree that was in my back yard is now sawdust, I must ask where is the tree? And the answer, it is no more. The nature or essence of the tree is gone. As such, things or what something is, cannot be the cause of its own existence right now. Something else must be the cause of its existence and ability to be changed right now. But you cannot have an infinite regress of things that all change, causing other things to exist right now, and expect to arrive at the cause as to why anything contingent exists right now. Therefore, you must conclude with something that exists that does not change, that did not come into existence and cannot go out of existence. That is, it must be necessary existence or eternal, having always existed with no beginning and no end, with no matter, no parts and no limitations.
Second, such necessary existence must be the God of Christianity. Christianity claims in its books that God is necessary existence or eternal (Exodus 3:14) and does not change (Numbers 23:19). And there cannot be two eternal beings. As one God would have to lack what the other God has in order to distinguish them. But anything you could say another God lacks would make it less than God, and therefore not God at all. All of what God is, since he is necessary existence, is identical to his nature. There can only be One ultimate being that is necessary existence. Hence, the God of my reason and the God of Christianity must be identical.
Third, there are historically accurate ancient documents from the time of Christ that say Jesus Christ claimed to be the only human form of this One and only God who died on a cross and rose from the dead and promised the forgiveness of sins and the free gift of eternal life to all who believe in him. This caused his immediate followers to radically change their religion and testify to his death and resurrection, even willing to die for this truth. Many may die for what they believe is true, but these followers of Christ died for what they knew was true, their teacher was bodily raised from the dead. A truth they knew and saw firsthand. Given God exists, this is the best historical explanation and a reason for the spread of the Christian faith. The writings left by his followers assert the teachings of Jesus Christ. These can be recognized as the word of God by all; because God’s existence entails human prophets can communicate God’s word and miracles can verify the message. Hence, I am a Christian who reads and tries to obey, to the best of my ability, these writings because they are true. This leads me to why I am a Protestant.
What do I have to protest? In 1517 a monk named Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses on a church door in Germany. The true religion of Christianity, maybe even with good intentions, over time developed an organizational and hierarchical authority that ends up obscuring and even altering the original and simple truths of its founder’s teaching. Today, however, I have direct access, no doubt because Protestant martyrs secured Jesus’ teaching in our common language. Therefore, I can judge what group or magisterium accurately reflects his teaching. Hence, while I respect tradition and other adherents to Christianity, I am able to test these by my savior’s teaching. Here, I will give three important teachings that have been obscured or forgotten by some overtime.
First, that Jesus Christ taught that the word of God was limited to certain books and therefore excluded other books and any authority, in heaven and on earth, that alters or adds to his teaching. In the documents that contain his teaching, he taught that the law and the prophets (Matthew 11:13) were the words of God, that spoke of him (Luke 24:44) and even listed what those books were by using the phrase that represents the Hebrew arrangement of books “from the blood of Abel [Genesis] to the blood of Zechariah [Chronicles]” (Luke 11:51). Likewise, he promised to his immediate disciples or those he appeared to after his resurrection, that he would guide them into all the truth (John 16:13) needed to teach about him. Hence, only the newer books written under the authority of an apostle or prophet of Jesus is the word of God (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16). Hence, sola scriptura.
Second, that Jesus Christ taught salvation, being justified before God, was by faith in him apart from any righteous deeds or works we have done or will do (Romans 4). As such, the good works performed, do not earn or merit our eternal salvation before God. Indeed, we should grow in doing good works, for our moral improvement and heavenly reward, which is vitally important to growing in faithfulness. And that manifested faith should not be alone (that is without works, James 2). The works help show that the faith is genuine, but the faith that saves us eternally is solely based on the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross and nothing else (Ephesians 2:8-10). Hence, sola fide.
Third, that Jesus Christ is our high priest who alone intercedes on our behalf before God (Hebrews 9:15). Since he was the sacrifice for sin once for all (Hebrews 7:27). Therefore, we do not need to make any other sacrifice or go through any other group, human, or created being, alive or dead to speak, to pray or ask forgiveness for daily sins on our behalf. We have direct and immediate access to God, because of Jesus Christ. Hence, the priesthood of all believers. This leads me to emphasize what is most important about Jesus’ teaching: The Gospel.
The new evangel (Greek for good news) following the Reformation was under attack during the Enlightenment and especially the rise of negative criticism. Christianity once again was battling for its survival in its own protestant churches. The gospel needed a thorough defense. Jesus left his followers with the command that as they go into the world they are to communicate the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that paid the penalty of sin to all people and nations, to baptize them in the faith, and to teach them to observe all Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). After following Christ, we are all evangelists which not only involves telling others but living a life of ethical righteousness. However, this message of good news and right living is supported by certain doctrines and ethical teachings that must be preserved and defended.
Some have sought to downplay, alter or attack these doctrines that make the gospel true. Thus, I am obligated by my faith to uphold, as taught by Jesus Christ and his apostles, such essential teaching as the divine inspiration of scripture, the triune nature of God, human depravity; Christ’s virgin birth, Christ’s sinlessness, Christ’s deity and humanity; the necessity of God’s grace, the necessity of faith, Christ’s atoning death, bodily resurrection and ascension; his priestly intercession, and his second coming.
I am also obligated by my faith to uphold the application of Jesus Christ’s ethical teachings that have been ignored. Essential ethical teaching such as the summation of the 10 commandments in the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-40), and illustrated in his sermons, parables, and miracles. Such teaching must be applied today to stop the murder of unborn children (Matthew 5:21-22), to uphold the sacredness of marriage (Hebrews 13:4) and avoid all forms of sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
Some may find additional doctrines and ethical teaching in scripture and application to today’s issues, but no evangelical should delete those stated above. A denial or alteration of any one of these essential doctrines entails an explicit or implicit attack on the gospel of Jesus Christ and evokes divine judgment. It seems, only the evangelical protestant carries this torch today. The banner or name over these teachings may change tomorrow, but the written Word remains forever. So, sign me up!Today, as tomorrow may be too late, I invite you to become a Christian believer, and a follower of Jesus Christ. Learn about him directly from the writings of his apostles and prophets in an evangelical church. Uphold its congruence with Protestantism and do the work of an evangelist to spread that faith wherever you go, to whomever you meet, and when needed defend that faith (Philippians 1:16) until he returns.