The Basic Truth behind Christianity
That’s a Good Question:
Just in case my avatar to the left didn’t give it away, I am a Christian, or Christ follower. Not too long ago I ran into the following question posed in a message forum.
“Besides Fear, Why Be A Christian?”
The discussion following the question was exactly what you would expect in a public forum. The onslaught from atheists, Christians, spiritualists, humanists, and agnostics was anything but productive. Although I am not sure if the question was even asked with sincerity, it did cause me pause. Is this, fear, truly the only reason the world sees Christians promoting as the justification for Christianity? Is it appropriate, or are Christians standing on the wrong podium? These are only a few of the questions that went through my mind. Well, after thinking about it for a few days, I decided to write this article to help organize my own thoughts. Who knows, maybe someone will find it helpful in their quest as well.
My World View Assumptions:
To start with, I am going to list just a few assumptions. Despite my delight in a good debate, I am hoping to keep this simple. My goal is to keep apologetics out of the picture. There is a time and place for this type of support. It is just not the direction I want to take this. So, here we go.
- God exists – My personal experiences and relationships have convinced me that God does exist.
- He can be known personally – Again, apologetics aside, this is something I have been convinced of and underlies my world view.
- He is the God of the Christian Bible – Personally speaking, my searching has convinced me that no other gods make sense in the physical world or even the scientific one. If God exists, He is the God of the Christian Bible.
- The Bible is His true word – I know all the arguments against the Bible and the claimed contradictions. From my understanding they are flawed, not the Bible. I won’t go into that debate here though.
- I am imperfect – I am a sinful human just like everyone else. My views and understanding below will not be presented perfectly. This is simply a fact that I can not compensate for. Hopefully they can provide some insight to others despite the author.
I realize that you may not agree with any one or all of the above assumptions. That is fine. I just ask that you keep an open mind. You don’t have to agree with me, just be willing to temporarily use these assumptions to follow my train of thought. After all, a person’s point of view will always be dictated by the assumptions which make up their world view. These are mine.
The Basics of Christianity:
Okay, let’s look at the first part of the original question; is fear the basis of Christianity? My first thought was one of surprise. Why would anyone even think this? Then, after reading further the author made it clear that the only visible reason to be a Christian was to avoid Hell. That started to make some sense. Hell is, after all, a very unpopular subject and with good reason. I don’t think that Christians should ignore Hell, but we may be using it as motivation to the wrong group. We will get back to this in a little bit.
Let’s look at what Christianity really is for a minute. In short, it is about Love. Okay, I saw that face! You have heard this before. It isn’t about our love though. It is about His Love; with a capital ‘L.’ God created us to enjoy his Glory and to have a relationship with Him. We, humans, threw this away at the start with the original sin. This put God in a hard spot, not impossible, just hard. How do you reconcile a sinful creature to a holy, perfect, and just God? By His nature He can’t simply ignore sin. By our nature we can’t live a perfect life. (Perfect is key here, not mostly good, upstanding, or even decent, we must be perfect.) How do you bring the two back together again? How do you reconcile the two extremes?
This is where His Love comes in. His solution was to take the punishment for us. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place and receive the just penalty for our sins. By accepting this we are not liable for our sins, justice has already been met. Because of His Love, His sacrifice, we can now have the intended relationship with Him and live in His Glory as he initially desired. Where is the fear in that? This free gift, grace, is available for anyone and everyone upon request. We simply need to believe what He says and allow Him to be God. This is where faith comes in. It is that simple.
Christianity is the only Religion that has nothing to do with works. Yes, God gives us instruction, just as we do our own children. Yes, we as Christians seek to understand and obey His instruction, granted some periods in history have seen this done better then others. How well we obey His instruction, however, has no influence on His Love for us or His gift of redemption. Personally speaking, because of the gift I have received, I desire to please Him and experience more of His Glory. This drives me to the Bible to seek a more complete understanding of Him and how my life may be shaped to honor Him. Again, some days I do a better job of this than other days.
So What about Hell:
This brings us back to the topic of Hell. The Bible does not present a message of “turn or burn,” that we frequently hear today. It also doesn’t ignore the subject either. The fact is sin has consequences. Otherwise there would be no need for the provision we discussed above and God could not be considered just. This shouldn’t be surprising though. Just as our current world has consequences, so does eternity.
We aren’t shocked when we get a ticket for driving 90mph in a 35mph speed zone are we? Do we petition our government and local authorities when a murderer is put in jail? Is it unfair that a thief be punished for stealing your property, or an arson serve a prison sentence for destroying your home? Of course not, we understand and accept behavior based consequences in our lives. It is just harder to extend them eternally. Hell is real, and understandably fear provoking. However, it is neither the focus nor the impetus for seeking Christ and believing in Him.
Here is something to think about. You are driving down the road and see a series of signs stating the bridge, immediately over the hill, is out. A detour route is also identified. Do you accuse the sign maker of using fear and scare tactics to get you to take a detour through a small town? Of course not, you would do one of three things. You would believe the signs outright and turn, ignore them and drive on at full speed, or see them as a cause for caution and proceed slowly while looking for other indications that the bridge is truly out. So it is in life.
A Christian's Motives:
For those non Christians that have actually made it this far, this may help you understand why some Christians just never seem to give up. I told you above that we would get back to this subject, so here we go. Hell really should be more of a motivator for the Christian than the non Christian.
Exactly how does this work, well let’s see. As Christians, we do believe in Heaven and Hell. We do believe in an eternal punishment for sin. We do believe is a means to avoid this punishment and enter into a relationship with a loving God. We should also believe that we are called to love as well. This is, after all, the second greatest commandment. Can we claim to love without having the desire that our friends and family be save from eternal despair? Really think about that one. Are we willing to share God with those around us, or are we fearful of their response and possible mockery?
Even with this understanding of Hell, it is only a distant second to the primary motivation of a Christian. After all, we have experienced the most spectacular and personally freeing gift ever offered in the history of the universe. Life doesn’t become cushy, easy, and with everything going right. It may even get harder, and has at times. Despite this, my personal experience provides me with undeniable proof of God and the benefits of accepting His free gift. I have found a personal, sustaining, and eternal relationship with my Creator. Why wouldn’t I share that with everyone I know?
Think of it this way… How would you feel if the following were to happen? A news story breaks today stating that a medical researcher had found a simple, safe, and effective cure for cancer (all cancers) over 60 years ago. He hadn’t shared it because it was a little unorthodox and had a potential for some short term, socially undesirable side effects. This would simply be unacceptable. You might even say the researcher had no right to withhold such a discovery. Well, that is where Christians often find themselves. God’s Love is real. His gift is real, and His promises are real. We have no option but to share, not doing so would simply be unacceptable.
That’s a Wrap:
So, this is the basic truth of Christianity as I understand it. The original question was a good question and one that prompted me to think. As usual, thinking always prompts more questions. Why do I believe? What is my motivation for sharing? How do others see my petitions? How do I respond to them? These are not easy to answer but the exercise has been beneficial to me if to none other. If you are not a Christians and actually made it through this, thank you. Feel free to contact me if you have questions. If you are a Christian please feel free to contact me with disagreements as well. As I mentioned, I am a flawed human and my understanding of God continues to mature. Thanks!
For those that may have questions, below is a presentation by a guy with much more creativity than I have. There are also some links to a few small books that are extremely well written and have been helpful in my own life.