Why I believe what I believe

What I believe is best summed up in the words of "Creed" by Rich Mullins, the raggamuffin Christian who shone his light only for a brief moment on planet earth.
 

 

I believe in God the Father almighty
Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ
His only begotten Son, our Lord
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
Born of the virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate
He was crucified and dead and buried

CHORUS:
And I believe what I believe
Its what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not
The invention of any man

I believe that He who suffered
Was crucified, buried, and dead
He descended into hell and
On the third day, rose again
He ascended into Heaven where
He sits at God's mighty right hand
I believe that He's returning to
Judge the quick and the dead
Of the sons of men

I believe in God the Father almighty
Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, Our Lord
I believe in the Holy Spirit
One Holy Church, the communion of Saints
The forgiveness of sin
I believe in the resurrection
I believe in a life that never ends

CHORUS:

I believe it, I believe
I believe it, I believe
I believe it, I believe it

So why believe in a Creator who created all things. Lets start with science - has science buried God. Quite the opposite is true. Science is simply a tool to understand the matter and laws of the Universe we live in through observation and experiments. What it has revelaed to us through observation and experiment is a well-tuned universe with a set of constants and laws that if out by a tiny fraction would not allow any life to exist. An example of these constants is the ratio of the strength of electromagnetism to the strength of gravity for a pair of protons - the value is a 10^36. If it were smaller by only a fraction, only a small and short-lived universe could exist. Surely one would conclude that there was intelligence behind these fine-tuned constants. These constants and the laws of the universe that govern gravitation, electromagnetism and the strong and weak forces are tools to help shape the Universe but the laws have to be created by a law-giver in the first place. The laws cannot be created from nothing.

Then moving onto why I believe Christianity to be the only faith that is true. Why would I put my belief in a man who claimed to be God and died an untimely gruesome death at the age of 33. And how can I believe so strongly in something which relies on some eyewitnesses and early church writers who wrote their accounts almost 2000 years ago. Why put your faith in a God who expressed Himself in what atheists have called a "desert sect" which is so "narrow minded" or "so last century". Eastern religions are more cool to believe these days or what right do you have to say that Christianity is the only way to God, why can't there be many ways or multiple truths. There are so many layers to strip away when talking about the Christian faith because our western world has encased Christianity in a thick cocoon of modernity, materialism, entertainment and denomanationalism. On the issue of why everyone can't find there own way - its interesting that nobody would want to do that when it comes to science - we beleive there is one ultimate truth and we build a better and better picture of that truth as we do more experiments.

The only way to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ is to understand the person we are following, Jesus Christ. To go back to the source of Christianity and remove all preconceived blind spots which have been formed by history like the Spanish inquisition, slavery, Apartheid and the use of issues like Abortion and gay marriage as a political wedge.

Looking at Jesus, we see a man that hung out with the sick, the outcasts, identified with the poor, with children, wih woman, he rubbed mud in the eyes of the blind to heal them, he saves a prostitutes life, he fights against violence by repairing a guards ear that his disciple cuts off but submits humself to the extreme violence of the cross. He confounds the wisest Jewish teachers of the day and says that we need become like children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He says "I am the way the truth and the life" and he gets crucified for calling himself God. As C.S. Lewis says, we have 3 options. "Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." Of course all of this assumes that their was a man called Jesus that walked on the earth around 2000 years ago - lets look at that question now.

The reliability of the biblical records should use the basic principles of historiography which you would use on any historic records. These are the bibliographical test, the internal evidence test and the external evidence test.

In terms of the bibliographical test, most people accept a lot of ancient history based on a few supporting texts. for example Caesar's history of the Galic Wars between 58 and 50 B.C relies on 9 manuscript copies dating to 1000 years after his death. This history of Thucydides (460-600 B.C.) is available to us from just eight manuscripts dated around A.D 900 almost 1300 years after it was written but no one questions the authenticity of these men or events. In contrast over 20000 copies of new testament manuscripts are in existence and most historians agree that every book of the new testament was written by a baptised Jew sometime between A.D. 50 and A.D. 70. Second to this in manuscript authority, is the Illiad, which has 643 manuscripts.

The internal evidence test is basically a test of whether the accounts seem contradictory or there are factual inaccuracies. At the time, the accounts of the gospels were written, there were eye witnesses and the gospel accounts were upheld by the church as reliable witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. When you read the gospel accounts you get a sense that these aren't contrived. A carefully contrived work wouldn't portray Peter fleeing and denying Jesus after Jesus arrest, disciples arguing over who would be ranked highest in the Kingdom of Heaven or Jesus wrestling with God over the crucifixion in Gethsemane or make use of female eye witnesses after the resurection who carried less weight than male witnesses in the culture at that time. It seems simply impossible that a few simple men could have created such a powerful, appealing personality in one generation which would have such a massive impact on the middle eastern world at that time.

The external evidence test checks if there is any non-biblical literature which confirms or denies the internal testimony of the documents. The historian Eusebius preserved writings of Papias, bishop of Hierapolis (A.D. 130) who spoke about Mark being Peter's interpreter and accurately writing down all he said being careful not to make any false statement. Iranaeus, Bishop of Lyons (A.D. 180) was a student pf Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna who had been a Christian for 86 yeas and was a disciple of Apostle John. He recounts how John produced a gospel while he was living in Ephesus in Asia. Most of the the historical places mentioned in the Bible are still places you can visit today and archaeology provides powerful external evidence. The bible also agrees fully with what Roman historians have gleaned from other Roman historical texts. Scepticism around the historical accuracy of Christianity is usually based on an anti-supernatural bias and not on detailed factual analysis.

When I think about the supporting evidence for my faith I always create an image in my mind of someone who is dropped blindfolded with a parachute out of an aeroplane and lands in an unknown country. They take the blind fold off and begin walking around. They notice that they are walking in snow and at night they see strange lights on the horizon. Then they see a polar bear and decide that they must be in the Arctic circle, using their compass, they now decide to walk south to get to warmer habitable land because walking north will take them to the pole. But they are relying on a limited set of evidence which includes things that they experience with their senses as well as information they learnt from a book namely that polar bears only exist in the north pole and not the south pole. But this evidence is enough to convince them and only by making a firm decision to now walk South will they begin to experience confirmation of their decision when the temperature starts to rise and they begin to see more vegetation instead of only ice (well this is before global warming while there is still sea ice connecting Greenland). This is how it is with the Christian faith; you begin with a set of evidence, its not a full scientific proof buts its enough for you to take a step of Faith, accept it as true and in the process of living out the Christian life, God's existence becomes undenyiable as He answers prayer, intervenes in situations miraculously, provides direction for your life through other believers, shows how His word provides a guide for living a life full of purpose, meaning, and creativity - we are created in His image and he is the ultimate artist.

A good resource for modern apologetics is:

The C.S. Lewis society