Our Beliefs…

Since the last post was daunting, here is something a little more intuitive for thoughts sake…

Yesterday, I was talking to someone I know about the Presidential candidates. We were talking about Mitt Romney and the fact that he is Mormon. The other person made a comment something like this: Yes, Mormons bring great moral standing to the office, but I have a bit of a problem with a person that can believe in such a young religion with a fairly unbelievable history and doctrinal issues (i.e. African Americans in the LDS church, etc.). I said, that in terms of history, Christianity didn’t have the cleanest past (the crusades) and we also had doctrinal issues, just much longer ago (hence the need for the councils and arguably the reformation).

*This post is not about Mormonism*

For this I want to see if we can view Christianity from the outsiders view only basing it on beliefs directly related to our salvation, and by faith.

1) We believe Jesus Christ is the son of God

2) We believe that Jesus Christ died for the forgiveness of our sins

3) We believe that Jesus Christ, after 3 days, was raised from the dead to grant the gift of salvation/eternal life for all

Here are the rules:

1) You cannot site the Bible as we are talking to those who do not believe in it

2) Historical documentation outside of the Bible is ok

Based on the 3 doctrines and 2 rules above, how would a non-believer see Christianity and/or how would you justify your reasons for believing in a way that separates Christianity from other religions?


6 thoughts on “Our Beliefs…

  1. Wow. This is your idea of less daunting? 🙂

    A lot of the people I talk with seem to come to their belief systems mostly as reactions to what the church has done to them or what they’ve read “Christians do”. So the academic approach here probably wouldn’t fly with these people I know.

    But if I were talking with a more academically minded person, I’d probably site the eyewitness testimonies of Christ after the Resurrection. After all, if we don’t have the Resurrection, all we have is a nice philosophy for living. Granted… the eyewitness testimonies I know of come from the Bible, so I’m probably breaking rule 1.

  2. I’ll admit up front: I can’t obey your two rules. Rather, I should say I don’t think they actually help the non-believer toward belief. Historical skepticism is one thing (“I’m not sure I believe John when he says here that Lazarus was dead and Jesus brought him back to life” etc.). To bracket out the entire Bible, however, is to throw the historical baby out with the bathwater. No thinking person could ever make such a sweeping deletion and think that they are actually clarifying the issue. It’s a complicated set of documents, to be sure, but to ignore the biblical evidence and statements that we have is entirely counter-productive. The content of the Bible is exactly what is at issue.

    The more I think about it, the more I realize that the very existence of the Bible goes a long way toward explaining some things. If we move outside the Bible, we don’t find “objective history,” we still run into worldview claims that are hard for us to accept (e.g. do non-canonical Jesus writings count: Thomas? Judas? etc.? What about early Jewish writings about Jesus or Roman non-believers writing about the early Christian movement? What are our criteria here for “reliable” or “acceptable” history?) For Christians, “extra-biblical history” won’t do anything to substantiate the claims that we make (no scientific pursuit can). The Bible doesn’t “prove” anything, but gives us the scenario in which our pretty fantastic claims actually make sense of things. (N.T. Wright develops a helpful historical lens related to this; making sense of things)

    In addition to the eyewitnesses, the fact that we even have the Bible at all demonstrates that something remarkable took place to make these early Jews (who were FIERCELY monotheistic) worship(!) Jesus alongside God as part of the whole unfolding story of God’s redemptive purposes — stated from the beginning as for Israel and then the nations. (Go read Larry Hurtado this very second if any of this is interesting to you — start with “One God, One Lord”)

    I think a proper understanding of the development and passing on of the biblical writings is exactly the key to our core beliefs as Christians: that Jesus is the messiah sent from God, that he came offering forgiveness and the kingdom of God, and that God raised him from death and vindicated his message.

  3. I can respect that. The Christian movement as a whole and the simple existence of Christianity today is witness to its authenticity.

    Here is the thing though: Christians see the Bible in a very particular light, granted, some see it more clearly then others. The question I have is, how do you use something to prove that same thing? Our primary source is the Bible. If I am a non-believer and skeptical of the Bible for whatever reason, why would I listen to you explain Christianity using the Bible.

    I know what you are thinking; “If they can’t believe in the Bible, there is nothing I can say to make them believe me (if not, pretend you are).” But that is not entirely true, right? We have faith (believing without seeing), we have Pauline conversion stories (getting knocked on our a** and coming to realization), and we have C.S. Lewis apologetic arguments that appeal to our logical half.

    Really, if we have to obey rule number 1, is it possible to become a believer without a substantial intercession on behalf of God?

  4. Well then we’re back to the same problem(s). To mention your examples:

    “Faith” in the full Christian sense, I would argue, is not believing without seeing (that sounds like pseudo-science). Rather it’s something more like “putting one’s trust in.”

    Stories like Paul’s conversion experience have been around long before Paul. Experiences are notoriously difficult to associate with reality, and even harder to apply on a broader level (e.g. “why should I believe your experience and not just have one of my own?”). It’s not the *experience* of Paul that carries the weight — although it certainly plays a role (just read Galatians 3.1-5!) — but the *content* of that experience and its application to Israel and the world — it’s this content that actually trumps other “experiences” and “claims” (now read the more forceful Galatians 1.8-9!).

    And as for Lewis’ logical arguments, they are firmly rooted in scripture, it’s just that he’s a freakin genius and he tricks people into believing scripture principles without telling them that’s what they are. I have a feeling this is what you’re asking about — how to engage people without quoting “bible verses” at them. I’m good with that. So whether we cite scripture or not, what we are giving them is principles which wouldn’t exist apart from the testimony of scripture.

  5. He is a freakin genius…youre not to bad yourself (dont let that go to your head)

    Are you a sola scriptura guy? Just curious 🙂

  6. Not a sola scriptura guy. More like prima scriptura…it’s not everything, but it probably should be first.

    And don’t worry, this whole application process has brought me down enough notches that I already think I should just go be a trash collector somewhere (apologies to those of you in the fine business of collecting trash).

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