The Christian Faith, Lesson 1

Basics of what the Christian faith is, and its distinctiveness in contrast to world religions.

Introduction

To say that since all gods have similiarities then all gods are the same, is like saying that since housecats and lions have similarities then housecats are lions1. Clearly it's the differences that matter most, not the similarities. And when the characteristics of various deities conflict, it's impossible for them all to be identical, e.g. having a son or not, being approachable or not, interacting with us or not, etc. The goal of this presentation is to show the ways in which the Christian faith differs from all others, by examining the following points:

  1. It appeals to evidence and credible witnesses
  2. Its founder rose from the dead
  3. It teaches that God became man, not that man becomes God
  4. It teaches an adoptive relationship with the Creator
  5. It teaches salvation by faith alone
  6. It teaches that God is a Trinity
  7. It's singled out for hyper-criticism

1. It appeals to evidence and credible witnesses

Evidence concerning people and events of the past requires testimony and cross-examination, as well as some physical evidence such as artifacts2 and writings3. Credibility of witnesses, and especially the testmony of hostile witnesses, is a major factor in establishing the facts of a claim, and we must never presume their character one way or the other.4 But the crucial point is that no other faith tradition even tries to approach the same level of appeal to evidence as does the Bible, nor the same degree of corroboration with historical records outside of their sacred writings.5

For a sample of how the Bible goes out of its way to reference people and events its contemporaries could examine, take a quick look at this outline of the life of Jesus. People fabricating heroes don't do things like that. Now let's look at what the Bible itself says about witnesses and evidence:

How many people saw what Mohammad claimed to have seen? The same question for Joseph Smith of Mormonism, and there are many similarities between those two men. And how many of their enemies saw miraculous healings, and wanted to kill the Healer because he was stealing their popularity?

2. Its founder rose from the dead

So we've established what evidence is and what credible witnesses are, and that the Christian faith hinges on the fact that Jesus physically died, was buried, and physically rose again. There is no Christian faith without this event.6 Yet many claim that this never happened, but that it was a borrowed story from older sources— without any skepticism of those sources, without any demand for the same level of proof required for the Bible. Let's look at one article on the matter:

So according to evidence and careful research, charges of borrowing are much more easily laid at the feet of the pagan religions, who either blended Christian teachings with their own, or were wrongly interpreted by modern critics of the Bible. In recent years, I've seen with my own eyes many ridiculous attempts to do the same, such as that Jesus as the Son of God is really the sun god, in spite of explicit scriptures condemning the worship of the luminaries!7 This is utter fallacious and ignorant nonsense. What would be the point of reading the Bible at all, if you can ignore the context, specifically the meanings of words in their sentences and paragraphs?

3. It teaches that God became man, not that man becomes God

One major theme running through most religious belief is that human beings can either become gods, or be unified with the divine, or be absorbed by it. Mormons, for example, believe that they can become gods.8 But the Bible is unique in teaching that God became human, not just in appearance but in actuality. This joining of two natures is known formally as the hypostatic union, which incidentally was the real topic of the first Council of Nicaea9. Now to the scriptures:

…and that instead of making people sacrifice for him, he sacrificed himself for us:

…and Jesus' death proved he is God:

Let's express this as a syllogism (deductive reasoning):

  1. The New Covenant could not be enacted without proof of the death of the one who made it.
  2. The one who made it was God, so God would have to die.
  3. Jesus died and enacted the New Covenant.
  4. ∴ Jesus is God.

God becoming man is the exact opposite of what the world's religions teach— even the unorganized ones.*

*The distinction betweenorganized and UNnorganized religions serves only as an excuse to marginalize, segregate, and quarantine faiths that are deemed inferior to spirituality. The presence or lack of organization has exactly nothing to do with a faith's rightful place in discussions of the supernatural.

The idea that we would need God to stoop down to help us bruises many people's egos, and they also jump to the ridiculous conclusion that Christians just sit around and do nothing while we wait for Jesus to return and clean house. But the fact is that Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves, and that being God didn't stop him from lowering himself to our level to lift us up. No other alleged god is believed to have done such a thing. This is not the same as any god temporarily manifesting in human form. This is God actually taking on human nature and becoming one of us, then sacrificing himself for us though he had no obligation to do so.

The implications of the dual nature of Jesus are covered in the next two points.

4. It teaches an adoptive relationship with the Creator

I'm not aware of any other faith that speaks of God adopting us as his children. Most say all people are already children of God, such that there's no need of a Savior, but none that I'm aware of have any teaching like adoption and inheritance.

Adoption is the rebuttal to the claim that we should earn our salvation, because adoption is an act of love and relationship, not a business transaction. And that brings us to the next point, THE most important doctrine of the Christian faith.

5. It teaches salvation by faith alone

Even many Christians don't grasp the concept, but no non-Christians accept it. The vast majority of people of any faith believe they must work for and earn salvation, because they're offended by the idea of humbling themselves to receive a gift, yet a gift it is:

Gifts and wages are mutually exclusive; you can't earn a gift. Jesus illustrated this in his parables of the wineskins and cloths; the old (law) and new (grace) cannot be mixed. Adoption has nothing to do with how good you've been or what you might be able to do for the one adopting you; it's about how much you're loved. Nothing else matters but whether or not you accept the offer and want to be a part of a new family, instead of staying in the orphanage. And you can't take it by force or buy it with your own efforts; you can only accept it in humble gratitude, or reject it in angry pride. Name another faith or spiritual perspective that comes close to that.

And by the way: A gift also can't be forced upon you. There is no fate or predetermination as to who will receive this gift of eternal life, regardless of objections and -isms both inside and outside of the Christian faith. The freedom to make this conscious, moral choice is pivotal, or else God is reduced to a puppeteer whose delicate ego cannot endure the possibility of rejection. This doesn't mean you have the free will to flap your arms till you fly, or other absurdities; it means God wants your love, and for love to be genuine it must be free.

6. It teaches that God is a Trinity

Let's begin by looking at Isaiah 46:9-10, which you can check in a Hebrew interlinear.10 God says I am El and there is no other; I am Elohim and there is none like me. Explain the mismatch of singular and plural, if God is simply either one or several, in the strictest sense of the words. Also consider this article. Finally, let's go over my own blog post on the Trinity.

7. It's singled out for hyper-criticism

Last but not least, we have the phenomenon of near-universal rejection of the Bible more than all other sacred texts— which shows that it isn't just Christians who think our faith is unique. The excuse used to be that most critics are familiar with only Christianity, so they attack it just because it's the only religion they encounter. But that doesn't work anymore; the internet has made all sorts of beliefs and texts familiar to millions— which is why this study on uniqueness is even necessary. Almost all others are left alone, or blindly accepted, and you won't find websites, forums, or channels dedicated to their destruction and mockery, as is the case for the Bible and the Christian faith.

In fact, western society in particular seems to bend over backwards to accomodate such religions as Islam or Hinduism or even Wicca, while the Bible and Christian faith are marginalized, mocked, and excluded. But most of all, what other text besides the Bible has been dissected by so many who shouldn't even care what it says? Where are the Hollywood movies about discoveries that prove the Vedas are corrupt? How many people (besides Christians) go around demanding that Muslims defend the Quran?

There's simply no denying that a double standard is employed around the world when it comes to matters of faith and practice. Yes, people of various religions fight among themselves, but the fight is to silence the people, not disprove their sacred texts or look for hidden ancient documents that they insist should be in the other religion's canon.

The why, I leave up to you. But if you're a die-hard enemy of the Bible and the Christian faith, consider the fact that your opposition serves as a strong hostile witness to further support the uniqueness of this faith. People only attack fables if they think they're doing harm, but an idea isn't harmful just because you don't like it, and it isn't false just because you don't believe it. And consider this: Jesus is the only religious figure who thinks you're to die for:

If anyone is united with the Anointed One, they're a new creation; the old one has passed away and become something completely new! Yet it all comes from God, the one who made this possible and has given us the assignment of bringing people to him. It was through the Anointed One that God reconciled the world to himself, meaning he would no longer hold their sins against them. This is the message he gave us; we're the Anointed One's representatives and God pleads through us. So we're speaking for him when we plead with you to be reconciled to God. This one who never sinned was made to be a sin offering on our behalf, so that because of him we can be in a right relationship with God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17–21


Footnotes

  1.  formal fallacies, affirming the consequent
  2.  def. of artifact at Merriam-Webster, and an example from a hostile witness (Nat. Geo.)
  3.  textual criticism
  4.  witness credibility
  5.  Bible evidence
  6.  1 Cor. 15:2-8, 14, 19
  7.  Deut. 4:19, 17:3
  8.  Article quoting their president Hinckley, as God is, man may become. We believe in eternal progression. Another, re. theosis, a belief in common with Eastern Orthodox doctrine.
  9.  First Council of Nicaea
  10.  Hebrew interlinear

Other Links

  1. chronology of the life of Jesus
  2. critique of claims the Bible borrowed its concepts
  3. the Trinity
  4. Plurality in the OT
  5. Bible Gateway
  6. The Gift NT
  7. Bible Literalist YouTube channel
  8. Words of a Fether

Bible references per numbered title

  1. Acts 1:8, 2:32, 3:15, 4:20, 5:32, 10:38-41, 13:31, John 3:11, 1 Cor. 15:6, 1 Tim. 3:16, 2 Tim. 2:2, 2 Peter 1:16, 1 John 1:3
  2. 1 Cor. 15:2-8, 14, 19, Deut. 4:19, 17:3
  3. John 1:1-4, 14, Col. 1:15-20, John 14:9, Phil. 2:5-11, Rom. 8:3, Rom. 3:25, 5:8, 1 Cor. 5:7, Eph. 5:2, Heb. 7:27, 9:26-28, 10:12, 1 John 2:2, 4:10, Mat. 26:28, Heb. 9:16-17, 20
  4. Rom. 8:15,17,23, Gal. 3:29, 4:5, Eph. 1:5, 3:6, Titus 3:7, 1 Peter 3:7, Heb. 12:8
  5. Mat. 9:16-17, Eph. 2:8-9, Rom. 4:2-5,16, 2 Cor. 9:15, Rev. 22:17
  6. Isaiah 46:9-10 and passages in linked article
  7. 2 Cor. 5:17-21