Like many of you, I’ve been saddened by reading the various stories chronicled in The Christian Post of people walking away from Christianity. The reasons for their departure have been different, but the result has been the same – a person who now believes the truth claims of the Christian faith are false.
I’ve seen myself in many of their stories and have gone through some of the exact same things they have, but I’d like to tell you why I have no plans to leave Christianity. To get started, let’s look at what I believe to be the three main causes of these ‘de-conversion’ stories.
There’s a reason why every book in the New Testament except one warns against false teaching. Bad instruction leads to bad beliefs that lead to bad outcomes.
Whether it was a misunderstanding about certain doctrines such as creation or heretical teachers pushing their own agenda via extra-biblical directives, a number of people in these articles were the victims of bad or flat-out false teaching. Much like professor Bart Ehrman whose faith began to unravel in seminary after he encountered one biblical issue he couldn’t overcome, their dominos fell over in rapid succession because of one doctrinal or false teacher misstep.
“The more I studied the Bible, the more I disliked the character of the Christian God. . . . I just can’t love a God that I dislike so much,” said one person who left the faith.
The second cause behind these people’s renunciation of Christianity started with a superficial Bible reading or study that produced within them wrong conclusions, which then led to them leaving the Christian faith in their rear view mirror. In the end, they create a deity of preference who matches their personal definition for what they think God should really be like.
Bad Things in General
The problem of evil (theodicy) cropped up a number of times in these stories, and is actually the primary reason Bart Ehrman cites for his loss of faith. This is most times the first line of defense unbelievers use to support their denial of God.
A Path Forward
Like these people, I’ve wrestled with the exact same things. Doctrinal questions like those of creation and the young earth/old earth debate puzzled me for some time.
And the problem of evil? I watched my first wife die right in front of me, leaving me with our one-year old daughter to raise alone, so I’ve definitely been there.
But despite these things, I have no intention of abandoning Christianity. And my reasons why are not hard to follow or difficult to understand.
I’m a Christian because I believe these two truth claims:
1. God exists
2. Jesus exists and He rose from the dead
If these two assertions are true, then Christianity is true.
What about the age of the earth and universe? Irrelevant. How about the problem of evil? Definitely an area to explore, understand, and an issue to settle in one’s own heart, but not something that disproves Christianity.
These become important details to investigate, but they don’t form an un-scalable wall that keeps a person from God. If God exists and Jesus exists and was resurrected then the Christian faith is valid and nothing outside of these two truths can topple it.
Give me just a few more moments of your time to tell you why I believe this to be the case.
The existence of God isn’t hard to accept or unreasonable to believe. In fact, the Apostle Paul says that it is something “clearly seen” so that all of us are “without excuse” on the subject (Rom. 1:20).
Why so? Because any other proposal for why we and everything else exists falls short of a satisfying explanation. Without God, you are left with the conclusion that an impersonal, non-conscious, meaningless, purposeless, and amoral universe – that science says is not eternal – accidentally created personal, conscious, moral beings who are obsessed with meaning and purpose.
That takes way more faith than I have to believe.
William Lane Craig (as usual) does an excellent job of laying out the strong philosophical foundations for God’s existence in one of the articles in Christianpost’s series. In my opinion, it’s hard to reason from the effects seen in life back to a First Cause and not come up with one that is eternal, supernatural, powerful, omnipresent, timeless, changeless, immaterial, personal/purposeful, necessary, singular, intelligent, and moral. Mindless matter and time isn’t going to cut it.
In other words, you have a cause that is a hand-in-glove fit with the God described in the Bible, which is what Paul means when he says God’s “invisible attributes” are “clearly seen”.
Let me be as clear as I know how: there is no educated person on the planet who denies the existence of the historical Jesus. The Duke Historian Dr. E. P. Sanders writes, “There are no substantial doubts about the general course of Jesus’ life: when and where he lived, approximately when and where he died, and the sort of thing that he did during his public activity.” Even the skeptical Bart Ehrman says, “He [Jesus] certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees.”
The biblical biographies and external / non-biblical historical evidence leave no room for assertions that Jesus didn’t exist. But there’s a difference between accepting the Jesus of secular history and Jesus the divine Son of God.
Some philosophers like Immanuel Kant asserted there was no way to bridge that gap. Enter Jesus’ resurrection.
Jesus Rose From the Dead
If you want to completely falsify Christianity there’s only one thing you need to do: produce the body of that Nazarene Carpenter. Paul said, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless … If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor.15:16-17,19).
Christianity rises or falls on whether Jesus really rose from the dead. And here’s an interesting fact: in the same way all educated historians believe Jesus of Nazareth existed, they also agree on the base events of His resurrection.
The facts that Jesus was crucified under Pontus Pilate, that He was buried, that His body went missing three days later, that reports of Him appearing to various individuals and groups began circulating, and that all His disciples except one were martyred for proclaiming His resurrection are not disputed by historians – Christian or non – that have studied the subject.
What they disagree on is what caused those events.
The only alternative hypothesis to Jesus being resurrected by God that is actually defended today by unbelieving historians is the hallucination theory – all those claiming to have seen Jesus were just seeing things that weren’t there.
But keep in mind: Jesus appeared not just once, but multiple times; not just to one person, but to different persons; not just to individuals, but to groups of individuals; not just at one location, but at multiple locations; not just in one circumstance, but in multiple circumstances; and not just to believers, but also to unbelievers, skeptics, and even enemies.
That’s one heck of a hallucination. And of course, to dispel any doubts, the first skeptics could have simply gone to the tomb and shown everyone His body. But the fact is, it wasn’t there and it remains missing to this day.
If God exists, and if Jesus existed and was resurrected, then Christianity is true.
Questions about the creation account, the problem of evil, bad experiences with false teachers or false Christians can be overcome if a person commits themselves to pursuing the truth about these twin foundations of Christianity.
Even though I’ve gone through some tough times, and may have some still in front of me, I’m not leaving Christianity for these reasons. Instead, I’ll echo Paul who says: “for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Tim 1:12).
Robin Schumacher is a software executive and Christian apologist who has written many apologetic articles, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at various apologetic events. He holds a Master’s in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament.