4 years ago, I left a Christian leaning cult. I gave my testimony about that a few posts ago. You can find that post here.
Growing up in it (The Message), whenever I’d see someone leave/escape it they’d go off the deep end. By that I mean that they started doing everything that the group said not to do, veering in the opposite direction – and startlingly fast I might add. With no community, no rules, no values, and a bitterness towards God and religion how could one help but go off the deep end? All that freedom, no guidance, and no purpose…I think It would be a miracle if they didn’t.
When I left the The Message, for me personally the default thing to go towards would have been atheism or agnosticism. Like many others I was burned by religion and the concept of God, having seen faith used as a way to manipulate people and create an unhealthy judgmental community. Not to mention all the money in tithes that the church misappropriated. Power misused, and theologically weak people confused and misused. So why aren’t I an atheist, or why aren’t I agnostic?
I’ve grown to appreciate the phrase, ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater’. People can take a beautiful thing (Like religion) and it can become distorted, and twist it for less than righteous intent. That doesn’t automatically make all religions bad – and most importantly, it doesn’t make God bad. I knew that concept to some degree, so I wanted to keep an open mind, and look at how my choice would effect my life and purpose.
A very simple philosophical argument resonated with me; that is Pascal’s Wager. In layman’s terms you can make a bet that either there is a God or that there’s not. If you bet there is, you try to serve him. If you bet the former (that there is a God) and you’re right, than whatever eternal reward there is outside of time is yours. If you lose the bet then you just… die? And dissolve into eternal nothingness. No big deal. Same thing if you win the bet that there is no God – you presumably just die and slip out of consciousness. If however, you lose that latter bet… Then you have to answer for that, and it might not be good. You will likely face some kind of judgement or eternal punishment according to many religions. So it would seem the better of the two bets is to bet there is a God.
That bet made sense to me, so I resolved in my mind to bet that there is a God, and try to serve him. It seemed like the safer bet. So what next? Which God? Why did I choose Jesus? No doubt a huge part of it was the community I instantly found. Not just with other family members but also an apologetics Bible study I stumbled upon through a dear friend (then only a stranger/neighbor) who loved Jesus and recognized my spot and reached out to me. I was able to critique Christianity in a way where it logically made sense, something I hadn’t seen in ‘The Message’. That imperfect Bible Study, sitting on old couches, sipping tea, and talking about faith honestly… That was a critical time in my life of which I am eternally grateful. If any of my friends from that study are reading this, thanks for being there, I’m thankful for you. <3
A few apologetics topics that helped convince me of Christianity’s rights are as follows: Firstly the historical credibility of the Bible. especially in regards to the new testament. In fact, the New Testament fits the criteria for historic fact far better than other historical events. And if It’s claims about Christ and the resurrection are historically founded, it does give credibility to Jesus’s act, and we should consider what it means for our life to believe that. In fact based on the number of early manuscripts of the Bible texts as well as secular texts around that time there is more evidence for the existence of Jesus, (of his life, death, and resurrection) than any other historical figure. The accuracy of the Bible, was shocking to me, in that the earliest portions of manuscripts (Dead Sea Scrolls which dated back to 350 B.C.) compared to the copies we have today, there are only minor changes (grammar, and word choice, not content changes). A third thing that was incredible to me was how Jesus fulfilled prophecies that dated before him in the Old Testament writings.
Lastly something that really stuck out to me was the fact that so many of Jesus’s disciples died for the gospel. These martyrs gave their lives for something they believed to be true. That’s not to say people wouldn’t be willing to die for a lie, but only if they believed that lie. Many of these people however were eyewitnesses to Jesus Crucifixion. Yet they died proclaiming that he was alive? That is incredible to me and the fact that so many saw Him alive (Allegedly over 500, reports from many accounts say) and there are so many report of witnesses who were willing to give testament of that fact (That He was alive) even unto death – that’s not something they would have done if they didn’t see Him.
I am by no means an expert in apologetics, but I did want to scratch the surface of what kind of things are discussed in Christian apologetics. I’m not a theologian nor can I pretend to be. I do love learning, debating, and looking for (and eagerly pointing out) logical fallacies, But the more I peak into Christian theology and other religions, the more I realize how little I know. I can’t pretend to know everything for even a minute. I hope however, that this post will encourage you to look into why you believe Christianity (if you are a Christian) and be able to give an answer for the hope that is within you. Whatever your faith (or non faith) is, I encourage you to ask yourself the question: “What if I’m wrong?” Both in word and action. How should your beliefs be affecting your life?
1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
I’d like to close out this post by stating that being a Christian isn’t simply about knowing Christian apologetics, or about understanding all the theology. Far from it. As counterintuitive as that statement may seem, even though it’s what ‘convinced me’ that Christianity is true, that’s not what faith is about. The message of Jesus is a message of grace. He came to the ignorant and the intellectuals, he came to the rich and to poor. All that I believe is necessary for salvation is to believe in Him, what he’s done, and accept him into your heart. From there it’s a journey.
My faith became my own 4 years ago, but the journey had only just begun. It’s taken a while for me to open back up spiritually and it’s been a struggle to dissociate God from the group, and practices of the group that I was a part of. By God’s grace though, I am learning what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, & strength. Not just with my mind or my intellect.
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
As I learn to really love God and my neighbors, I can rejoice in knowing that I am loved and forgiven by the one who rescued me. I am still learning, and still stumbling, but God is good. I am thankful that I was able, by God’s grace, to build a foundation in the Truth of the Gospel 4 years ago, and am ever so slowly growing in my faith.
For additional reading on the topic of Christian apologetics (By far better writers than myself) see below.
- Is the Bible Historically Accurate? (ChristianCourier.com)
- Historicity of the Bible (archive.org)
- How Accurate is the Bible (CSLewisInstitute.org)
- How Do we Know The Bible Is True? (EternalAnswers.org)
Also, some books I have found extremely helpful on these topics:
- Reason for God – A book by Timothy Keller, a pastor and church founder,, theologian, and Christian apologist. In which he addresses common arguments (or complaints) against Christianity and lays out sensible answers as well as logically lays out different lines of thought.
- The Case for Christ – A book by Lee Strobel, an investigative (atheist) journalist who converted to Christianity after extensive research through which he had hoped to disprove the faith his wife had recently adopted.
- Mere Christianity – A book by C.S. Lewis, (My favorite author!) who was a novelist, literary critic, Christian apologist, among other titles. This book explores the common ground all Christian’s share.