I recently was confronted with an objection to the existence of God that I hadn’t really heard of before. It’s taken me some time to put my thoughts together in a way that I feel like asses the objection well, but I think I’ve come up with a reasonable solution.
To the best of my ability this was basically the argument: God, if he exists would want to find the most efficient way in which to reveal himself to us. Unfortunately, the evidence seems to point that God is not being efficient in revealing himself. This can be seen by two factors. First, some people go throughout their entire lives and never hear the name of Jesus. Second, there is suffering and hardship in this world which has not been alleviated by Christianity. Because, God has therefore not been efficient in revealing himself to mankind then he must not exist.
So what is the solution?
Our culture today has become overtly focused on tolerance. In a way tolerance has become king, in the sense that if we do anything whether in action or deed that is viewed as intolerant we are encouraged, or even forced to abandon that belief or action in the name of tolerance. The odd thing missing from all of this, is how intolerant such a forced tolerance has become.
In Colorado Springs a Ratio Christi Chapter has been told by the University of Colorado that they cannot force their officers to have a profession of religious faith in the name of tolerance or ‘non-discrimination’. Similarly, Intervarsity has been told a similar thing by Vanderbilt University. In essence Universities are now telling religious organizations that they are allowed the benefits of being a recognized student organization so long as they have they accept all students even if a students goal is diametrically opposed to the organization. Keep in mind these organizations are not limiting students attending their organization if they have different views but simply does not allow them to be members or perhaps just not hold positions of leadership. Continue reading
This last weekend I was at an open house at the local Mosque here in Fort Collins. I was encouraged to see that there were many visitors who, like myself, clearly weren’t part of the Mosque ourselves. I think it is important that we are able to dialogue, communicate and fellowship with those who don’t believe in the same things that we do.
As the open house winded down I found that I was in a minority even among the visitors that day. They had a panel answering questions and dialoguing about interfaith relations when the Jewish leader that was a part of the panel dropped this bomb: “to say there is only one way to God is limiting to God.”
I was a little surprised by the comment. Not so much by the comment as much as I didn’t expect it to come from the Rabbi in the group. I more expected that the Universalist reverend on the panel to say a statement like that rather than the Rabbi. But it still had me thinking ‘Am I limiting God when I say that there is only one way to God?”
In short my answer to this as I think about is ‘no’. The fundamental thing that I think a statement like this is misunderstanding is that we decide the ways to God. When I say that I believe that there is only one way to God it isn’t because I’ve made it that way, it’s because God made it that way. I don’t say there is only one way to God because I want to limit God or that I believe God could only make one way, I say it because my understanding is that God has only made it that way.
When Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” it seems pretty clear that there is only one way. So am I limiting God? No. I am saying simply what God has said.
Could God have made it another way? My understanding of theology seems to say no, which is another subject entirely, but for the sake of argument let’s just say that God could have allowed more than one way to Him. If God could have made another way and yet as He says in John 14:6, he has only made one way to him, am I limiting God? No, I am not. God is limiting God. There is only one way to God. He has made that clear. It wasn’t my choice. I would even like to say that there is more than one way to God, but if that isn’t true I am not going to say it to make others feel better.
I often think that someone who says ‘we are limiting God by saying there is only one way to him’ are saying it because it doesn’t feel good. And they are right. I wish it was another way. But if a friend of mine wants to cross the highway where it isn’t safe and there is only one safe place to cross the highway do I let him cross where he wants to because he will feel good about it? Absolutely not! I could care less what makes him feel good, I would rather have him alive than happy and then dead, because I didn’t speak the truth because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
When doing Apologetics it can all seem quite overwhelming at times. Frankly, none of us will really every grasp every aspect of apologetics in order to answer every question. In light of this it becomes easy to ask how can we know that Christianity is really the only truth and all of the other religions are wrong.
When I teach apologetics I start by teaching the reasons why we know Christianity is true, because, in the end, if we can show that Christianity is true than we have shown why all of the other religions are wrong.
Just like any part of life we know that two opposite propositions cannot both be true. This still plays out with religion, but for some reason people tend to forget that. If Christianity is true than Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Ba’hai, or anything else is wrong. This isn’t to say that those religions are wrong about everything, but in anything that they disagree with Christianity, they are wrong.
At this point, many of you may be thinking “well most religions basically say the same thing, so they could all really be true”. I’d challenge you to think that through a bit more. When you say all religions teach the same thing what do you mean? They teach the same moral values? Mostly. But even that really isn’t true, not every religion tells you to love your neighbor or care for the needy, Satanism doesn’t, and some groups of Islam don’t.
If we think about it this area of morality is really the only issue that most religions agree on. Outside of that they disagree on heaven, hell, creation, nature of God, nature of Man, Sin, Salvation and many other central truths. Even here some religions don’t just disagree on what these things look like, but disagree on whether these things even exist or not. Hinduism and Buddhism don’t believe in heaven, and Islam and Christianity differ greatly in what heaven is like.
Most importantly these religions vary greatly on how to achieve salvation, though they wouldn’t even all agree to the word salvation, or even the concept itself as well.
Saying that all religions teach the same thing is like saying that Republicans and Democrats are the same because they both believe we should do what is best for the United States, but we all know better than that.
Saying that all religions teach the same thing is like saying that Republicans and Democrats are the same because they both believe we should do what is best for the United States.
So do all religions teach the same thing? No, not even slightly. So how can we know that all the other religions are wrong? Well, if we know Christianity is true than all other religions would have to be false, at least in where they disagree with Christianity. So if you want to know what religions are false, the best place to start is finding what religion is true.
So I’ll admit it, this is just my opinion, and there is probably a few other statements that have ruined peoples faith, but I think this may be the worst of the litter.
“you just need to have faith”
We hear this statement in a number of situations. Perhaps someone is going through a hard time and they are struggling to see how God is allowing their friend to battle through cancer, they are dealing with a difficult breakup, or they lost their job and don’t know what they are going to do. Then along comes the well-meaning Christian, he plops down beside him and says that horrible combination of words ‘I know it’s hard, but you just have to have faith’.
Or in another situation someone is struggling through the scriptures in seeing what seem to be some immoral acts of God, they have doubts about whether God exists, whether the Bible is reliable, or even just are struggling to grasp and/or believe some piece of theology. Once again, here comes that well-meaning Christian to help his struggling brother or sister. He feels he has a sufficient understanding of what’s going on and ignorantly presents the ‘you just have need to have faith’ line.
I think I’ve been in both situations at one time or another, but both times I felt my heart or brain throw up a little. To a point, when we say this we are spot on. At one point or another we should trust that God has things under control. Even with the best apologetics training in the world there is still that movement between knowing in our mind and trusting through our actions that we must take a leap or even just a really awkward step of faith.
The statement isn’t wrong in itself. It’s true. The timing is wrong.
If you say ‘you just need to have faith’ to the person who is going through a hard time you have failed miserably to empathize with them. They may even know it already; they may even believe it already, but having faith doesn’t mean that the situation doesn’t suck. It still sucks. What someone needs in that moment isn’t someone to fix it, or express the cold hard facts of life, especially when they probably already know ‘they just need to have faith’. They just need someone to be there.
When we say this sort of thing to someone struggling in their faith we also haven’t stepped into their shoes. We clearly haven’t taken the time to hear out their struggles. Maybe you haven’t had that sort of crisis of faith yourself, so you don’t understand. Let me tell you how you sound to that person. When someone is genuinely seeking truth and struggling to find and trust God in the midst of it and you tell them ‘you just need to have faith’, do you know what they hear? They hear ‘Hey buddy, there really aren’t good answers to what you’re asking about, you just need to stop using your brain and dedicate your entire life to God blindly without really knowing if He really exists or not’.
Sooooo. . . not helpful.
Please don’t say this to anyone struggling with their faith. Perhaps you don’t know the answers, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Tell them to check it out, try to be a resource to help them in it, or find someone who can.
Let’s agree ‘you just need to have faith’, is totally true. But sometimes it isn’t helpful.