FAQ'S



FAQ'S about Christianity

How can we be sure God Exists?

No one will ever be able to prove or disprove the existence or non-existence of God through intellectual argument, scientific data, or any other human means with absolute, 100% certainty.  The only way we could even know if there were a God who exists would be if He were to somehow reveal Himself to us in some tangible way – and even those evidences would not be absolutely verifiable.  Certainly, we should seek to acquire as much reasonable, objective evidence as possible for God’s existence.  But at some point, we will always be forced to make a leap of faith as we weigh the evidence for or against the existence of God.  The point is to make our jump in the direction of the strongest evidence available.

 

Having said this, we believe that God has clearly revealed Himself to us and has offered us extensive and credible evidence that He does, in fact, exist.   The following are some of the evidences for the existence of God:

 

The existence of high levels of order and design in the natural universe point very strongly to the existence of a personal, all-powerful, intelligent designer.  Interestingly enough, the God of the Bible is described in precisely these terms.

 

The presence of the human hunger for purpose and meaning in life is not sufficiently explained by any other alternative explanation.

The existence of human personality, especially the evidence of spirituality in human beings, has no explainable origin outside of a personal God of some kind.

The existence of universal moral absolutes across all cultures is best explained by the existence of a transcendent moral Being outside of ourselves.

The existence of human reason begs for an explanation beyond mere evolutionary theory.  How can we trust human reason as a valid tool for evaluating reality if that reason itself somehow springs from random chance, accidental mutation, or natural selection?  If evolutionary theory is true (for the sake of argument)– our reasoning would be based in random, illogical processes, dramatically decreasing our trust in the ability to discern reality with any degree of accuracy. 

The historical, archaeological, textual, and linguistic integrity of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible (Christianity’s primary truth source) are so high as to be virtually irrefutable.

 

The historic person of Jesus Christ, who claimed to be God-in-the-flesh is our most concrete evidence regarding the existence of a supernatural, yet utterly real God.  If Jesus is who He claimed to be, we have highly credible evidence that God does in fact, exist.  Jesus Himself, is the best evidence not only for God’s existence, but also the best evidence for who God is and what He is like – the good, loving, all-powerful, transcendent, yet very personal God revealed in both the workings of our natural world, as well in record of His actions in history among men – relayed to us through the writings of the Bible.

Is Christianity Rational?

In the minds of many, the mere mention of Christianity places it on a par with superstition, myth, and anti-intellectual emotionalism.  People immediately think of it as a religious faith based solely on subjective feelings or ideas without any rational, objective support.  In reality, Christianity is one of the most intelligent, rational approaches to life of any of the world’s great religions or personal belief systems.  The Christian faith, has undergone literally hundreds of years of testing by historic, archaeological, textual, philosophic, and logical sciences – and has passed with flying colors, exhibiting amazing levels of integrity.  No other world religion – Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, etc. - has anywhere near the levels of rational support that Christianity possesses.

What about the Validity of Other Religions or Spiritual Paths?

While other spiritual/religious paths do exist, possess much in them that is good and worthwhile, and even offer occasional spiritual truths consistent with those of the Christian faith, it is patently evident to anyone who has truly studied each path in depth – including Christianity – that each one believes itself to be the only true path toward God.  This is certainly true of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.  Each of them make specific claims about God and core spiritual truths that are VASTLY different from the others and often mutually exclusive or contradictory to each other.  In this way, Christianity is no different from the world’s other religious systems or faiths – it makes specific claims about God and spiritual truth which are uniquely different from all other spiritual paths.  These claims are based on the clear teachings of Jesus and on the way He lived His life.

 

A lot of people like to think of all the world’s religions like different paths all going up to the same summit of a mountain – just different ways to get to the same God.  But what if a particular path dead-ends, winds endlessly around the mountain, or goes off somewhere else?  How would we really know?  And does this way of thinking about spirituality really do justice to the complex core differences between different spiritual paths?

 

What if the issue is better pictured like a maze - different paths with different beginning points that sometimes run parallel to each other and at other times go off in wildly divergent directions?  The central question beyond where they parallel or diverge will always have to be, “Does this path actually get me to the finish point?”  In this, we must accurately and carefully assess the attributes of each path and whether those attributes indicate that a particular path will get us there or not – based on the best evidence we have for its validity.

 

That being said, Christianity is unique from all the world’s religions in the following ways:

 

All other religious systems and paths represent man’s attempts to reach out to God through human effort (Judaism’s Old Testament Law and Sacrifices, Islam’s Five Pillars of Faith, Buddhism’s Eight-

 

Fold Path, New Age’s crystals, meditation, and other techniques).  They all rely on a human being’s ability to measure up to God in some way, shape, or form – all on natural human strength.  On the other hand, Christianity represents God’s intentional attempt to reach out to us first and offer us a new life based on what Jesus Christ has already done for us, not what we can do for God.  

 

Jesus verbally claimed to be God, and claimed that He was the only way to reach God.  No other founder of any other major religion has ever made that claim about themselves.

 

Christianity is the only major religion which provides a way to resolve the major obstacle standing between God and man – man’s sin.  This is the critical issue separating human beings from God.

 

Sin is not the technical act making a mistake or failing.  It is the relational betrayal of God Himself – like the way a man or woman would feel if a spouse cheated on them .  Like it or not, it doesn’t primarily matter how we feel about what we’ve done, but how God feels.  Our betrayal shatters our basic relationship with God and puts us at fundamental odds with Him and with the world around us.   It cannot be solved simply by doing good things, or trying to act in better ways.  The relationship can only be restored by forgiveness, before renewed relationship can be built.

 

The Bible, Christianity’s truth source, is superior to all other religious writings of antiquity – based on its superior levels of historic, textual, archaeological, and philosophic support.

 

No other religious leader, besides Jesus, voluntarily died to pay the penalty for the sins of others – much less those of their enemies

No other religion claims its leader has come back from the dead to live forever and thus, be available personally to their followers on a continuous basis – except Jesus.  They’re all still dead.

 

No other religious leader besides Jesus, claimed He would personally return again someday to wrap up human history, clean up the mess we’ve made of this world, and usher in an eternal existence that will never end or fade away.   Jesus is the only one who ever made that claim.  

Doesn’t Science Disprove or at Least Contradict the Christian Faith?

For a long time, conventional wisdom held that combining science and religion was like combining oil and water – they just don’t mix.  In a certain sense, that is true.  They are completely different disciplines.  The scientific method fundamentally rests on the premise of being able to repeat or reconstruct an event, action, or situation in order to test the consistency of its outcome.  The scientific method is the process of stating a guess (hypothesis) about the nature of physical phenomena, reconstructing the elements of the original situation as precisely as possible, and then observing the results.  Scientific theory is a matter of the predicting the highest degree of probability based on the available data we possess.

 

But what we know about God, His existence, and actions in human history, revolves primarily around historical events – and it is impossible to recreate those events with the level of precision or scale required to subject them to scientific observation.  Certainly, we can assess elements where the two seem to meet or where science can either validate or invalidate statements or propositions made in the Bible.  But the bulk of the testing of the Christian faith falls along the lines of logic, historical verification, archaeological data, and linguistic/literary evaluation of primary source documents.  These are slightly different disciplines from those of the scientist.

 

Interestingly enough, where science and Christianity do share common ground, is that they both operate on presuppositions which are based on faith.  For example:  science presupposes 1) that the universe is orderly and operates according to regular systematic processes, and 2) that human reason is sufficient for evaluating and verifying reality. 

 

Far and away, the greatest controversy between Christianity and the field of scientific inquiry seems to center around the origins of the universe and especially the origins of human life (macro-evolution – evolution as the process by which matter came into being, eventually combined to create life, and eventually created human life from lower life forms).  But is this controversy all it’s made out to be?  Any scientist with integrity will tell you that macro-evolution is not a proven fact in the scientific community.  It still remains only a theory – a theory which is increasingly losing support in the scientific community itself, and which Darwin himself rejected later in life as a means for explaining the origin of the universe.  In fact, macro-evolution cannot be proven by means of the scientific method because it is an event in time which cannot be repeated or reconstructed sufficiently.  Additionally, scientists today have been unable to provide the hundreds of missing links in the supposed (and necessary) transitions between species.  Thus, they deal largely with pieces of supposed evidence which are disjointed and lack sufficient integration.  Finally, scientists still lack a scientifically verifiable explanation for the origin of universe, much less for the origin of matter itself.  In fact, the mathematical probabilities regarding the creation of the universe out of existing matter, by random chance, are astronomically unfavorable.  The probability of even one amino acid evolving by random processes is 10 to the 243 power.  Even the skeptic, Carl Sagan, admitted “the probability of evolving a human being through random processes is 10 to the two-billionth power – which Borel’s law says is no chance at all.”   

 

On the other hand, recent advances in quantum physics, astronomy, particle theory, bio-chemistry, and other fields of scientific inquiry are finding mounting evidence which supports a “big bang” explanation for the origin of the universe, as well as the existence of a universe so fine-tuned it defies random chance – which actually support the biblical account of an intelligently designed universe which “came into being” at a specific point in time.   These discoveries make it increasingly rational to believe in a world created by an intelligent designer – and increasingly irrational to believe in random chance as a viable explanation for the origin of the world (and human life) as we know it.

 

Quite frankly, the reason it is difficult for many scientists and scholars to give up on evolution as a theory for the origins of the universe, even in the face of insufficient scientific evidence, is the simple fact that they have absolutely no other explanation than one outside of science – that of an intelligent designer.   And they just cannot bring themselves to consider this as a legitimate explanation in any way, shape, or form.

 

Most of the presumed conflicts between science and the Christian faith are actually resolved satisfactorily by using and practicing good science along with an accurate understanding of exactly what the Bible actually teaches.  Both science and theology are sometimes misunderstood and misrepresented by well-meaning, but misguided people on both sides.  Sometimes the Bible is not properly understood and is misrepresented as saying things it doesn’t really say.  And sometimes science is dismissed out of hand as unspiritual and unnecessary without taking into account its contribution to our understanding of truth.  When we apply science that is unbiased and based on solid findings, and when we take time to accurately understand the Bible, most of the supposed conflicts and contradictions shrink in significance – or disappear altogether. 

 

Of course, not all the conflicts are resolved, and there remain areas of legitimate disagreement between science and the Christian faith.  But these disciplines are not mutually exclusive and often cooperate in helping us understand and explain reality.

Lastly, it’s important we keep in mind that scientific knowledge is not static – and thus not absolute.  Scientific knowledge is dynamic and its findings are constantly being revised and adjusted as new data come to light.  The same can be said for our understanding of the Bible as well.  As our fund of knowledge about history, linguistics, archaeology, and culture grows, we must come to the ancient and timeless texts of scripture with new eyes and a willingness to allow new discoveries to help us fine-tune our understanding of what it teaches us about God and life.     

How Can a Good, Loving, God Allow So Much Suffering and Evil in the World?


This is one of the two most frequently asked questions today about the God of the Bible and of Christianity.  It is an incredibly complex subject and rarely do reasonable answers satisfy the deep emotions this question surfaces.  While it is impossible to treat the subject with the care it deserves in such a short space, we’ll at least try to offer the basic teaching of the Christian faith as accurately as possible. 

 

The Bible teaches that evil is the natural by-product of both the individual and universal human decision to reject God as the center of life.  As a necessary requirement for the existence of real, true, authentic love between Himself and His human creations, there must be the ability to choose God freely with no coercion or force – otherwise, it wouldn’t be love.  God gave men and women the ability to freely choose Him as the living center of their lives – a choice which would empower them to live consistently with how God designed human life to work.  To choose God is the essence of the definition of what is good.  But to reject God (to not choose Him as the center and thus not follow his design for how human life is to be lived) is the essence of “non-good” – or the definition of evil.  At one time or another, all men have made the fatal decision to betray God and have thus put themselves at fundamental odds with God and with life as He created it to work best.  The Bible succinctly calls this fundamental choice “sin”.  In truth, most of the evil done in the world today finds its roots in the decisions of human beings to choose their own wants, needs, and desires over God’s.  In order that true love may exist, God will not override those choices and “make” people do what He wants them to do – even if it is best for them, and He is not obligated to mitigate the natural consequences of their actions either.  If I decide to pick up a gun, point it at another human being, and pull the trigger, God is not obligated to stop the bullet mid-air or have it veer off course – even if an innocent person might become the victim of that act.  If He did, He would be overriding my freedom of choice in terms of both the action itself or its intended effect on others.

In dealing with this question, we think it is important for people to consider several facets of the issue:

 

God is the sole basis for “good”.  It’s worth asking the question, “What would the world be like if there was no God?”  History has given us some brief glimpses of such a world – Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union.  Without a good God, how is it that we assume “good” should be the natural state of life?  Instead of asking, “Why is there so much evil in the world?” maybe we should ask; “Why is there so much good in the world?”  Maybe it is because God is good, has not abandoned us, hates evil, and is actively working to counteract the effects of a fallen world, full of fallen people while respecting their natural right to make totally free decisions, until that time when evil will be permanently eradicated from our experience.

 

If God were to eliminate evil – totally, impartially, and with absolute justice, then He would have to totally and completely wipe out ALL evil in anything and everything remotely touched, tainted, or connected with it.  He could not arbitrarily wipe out only some of it, and still be a just God.  Anything and everything means everyone too– including you and me.  When you think through the logical extension of this option, how many of us can really say we favor this solution?

The good news of the Bible is that God DID put a solution in motion to solve the problem of evil.  This solution would respect the element of free will, respect His own character of love and justice, preserve the good and the potential good in every human being, and yet effectively deal with evil at its root.  God implemented this solution in the voluntary crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.  God Himself assumed the full penalty (death) for all the sins of all humanity for all time, by coming to earth as a man in the person of Jesus, living a perfect, evil-free life, and paying the full penalty for all evil for all time.  On that cross, Jesus substituted Himself for every single one of us – which is exactly what made the cross so horrific.  At the same time, God offered a way out for anyone who would, of their own free will, choose to turn away from selfishness and evil in order to follow Jesus as the new center of their lives. His promise to them is that under His personal leadership of their lives, they will continue to progressively overcome their inclinations toward evil and grow in voluntary goodness – until a future day when He will completely eliminate evil in them and in the world. 

Are Heaven and Hell Real?


Yes, the existence of heaven and hell is real.  The Bible teaches that each of these are conscious states of being.  Hell is described as being the conscious state of eternal separation from God and complete isolation from any kind of meaningful life, existing in an endless state of psychological disintegration and extreme regret.  Heaven on the other hand, is described as living in the conscious state of eternal, intimate, living relationship with God and participating fully in a level of life far beyond our wildest imaginations – a life that never ends, weakens, or fades away.  While both heaven and hell may very well have a dimension of physicality to them, they are not physical places, at least not as we know them in this dimension of space and time.  Rather, they are spiritual states of being which lie outside our space-time continuum.

Does God Really Send People to Hell?


In a way, we must answer this question both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.  God does not actively send people to hell.  Rather, men and women send themselves there.  To reject God as the center of life is to make the deliberate choice to live without God.  And when the door closes on this life, God allows us to have our way – forever.  To reject God is to choose the alternative to eternal life – the state of eternal separation from God.  It is each man or woman’s personal choice, and their choice alone on which their eternal destiny rests.  When this life ends, what we have chosen in this life becomes irrevocable.  Everyone simply gets exactly what they chose.

In another sense, God does execute final judgment on every individual’s life based on where they truly and accurately stand in respect to Jesus during their earthly life. Those who have chosen to become followers of Jesus with their whole lives will be ushered into eternity. Those who have chosen to live life without God will be excluded from eternal life by the pronouncement of God.  Physical death, the final event of our earthly lives effectively seals our decision about God for all of eternity.

Why Are There So Many Hypocrites in the Christian Church?

We must be honest and admit that people who call themselves followers of Jesus have throughout history committed unthinkable and indefensible acts of wrongdoing in the name of Christianity.  And there is no excuse for it either – even today.  People who call themselves followers of Jesus are expected to live their lives as Jesus lived.  This should be our goal as followers of Jesus.

 

However, it is important to remember that NO ONE is perfect.  Christian churches are filled with hypocrites in the same way hospitals are filled with sick people – they are both in the process of getting better, but they’re not fully well yet.  The church is made up of broken, sinful, flawed human beings who though forgiven, are still in the process of learning how to become more fully developed and fully devoted to Jesus with their whole lives.  This does not excuse their actions; it is simply an explanation of the dynamics.    

 

In addition, those of us who are Jesus’ followers have high standards set for our lives and conduct.   When we fail to meet those standards, it is more glaringly obvious to the casual observer than it would be in the failure of someone with lesser expectations or standards – say a drug dealer, prostitute, or mafia boss.  The fact of the matter is that a good, healthy percentage of Christians are sincere, well-meaning people whose lives have been transformed by Jesus, and who are still in the process of attempting to overcome debilitating and destructive habit patterns left over from the way they used to live before they became followers of Jesus.  They’re not perfect yet – and they still make bad decisions and mistakes – but God is not finished with them yet.

 

Finally, it is vital to recognize that hypocrisy is not peculiar to Christianity alone.   Every faith, philosophy, religion, and spiritual system is full of people who say they believe one thing and do another, who confess to certain spiritual beliefs and then fail those beliefs in the way they live day to day – Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, Taoist, even atheist.  The validity of Christianity – or any faith for that matter – should not be evaluated on the basis of the people who claim to be its followers, much the same way it would be invalid to judge a race of people by the failures of one or a minority of individuals of the same ethnic makeup.  Instead, it is only fair to judge any faith – including Christianity – by the internal consistency and integrity of its own claims.  We evaluate the validity of Christianity based on the person of Jesus and the veracity of what He claimed and taught about Himself, about God, and about life.  It is the only genuine way to arrive at truth with any sense of confidence and integrity.

 

If you are a spiritual seeker truly interested in investigating the person of Jesus and the claims of the Christian faith, we suggest you get connected with a community of people (a church, or Bible study) who are authentically seeking to follow Jesus and who will provide a safe place for you to ask questions, push back on concepts which are difficult to understand, and love you for who your are.  Sun River is dedicated to become just such a place where you can continue your spiritual search at your own pace.  We would be honored to be a part of the process of your spiritual search, and invite you to join us on the journey of learning how to follow Jesus more fully with our lives.

Resources


In addition, we suggest the following resources that can aid you in your search:


The Books of Mark or John in the New Testament section of the Bible

The Jesus I Never Knew; Philip Yancey

The Case For Christ; Lee Strobel

The Case For Faith; Lee Strobel

The Case For Creation; Lee Strobel

Evidence That Demands a Verdict; Josh McDowell

The Liquid Bible; Paul Thome

The Secret Message of Jesus; Brian McLaren

The Challenge of Jesus; NT Wright