How would you respond to a question an atheist recently asked, “What makes Christianity right?” Here’s our answer!
Q. What makes Christianity right?
There are 100’s of religions, why is Christianity as a religion right. I talked to him about how as a historical account it is backed up by current research. What he wants to know is how it’s right.
I assume that by “right” we are referring to what makes Christianity true as opposed to the other worldviews.
First, we need to address the nature of truth before we can evaluate the truthfulness (or not) of Christianity. Truth is best defined as that which corresponds with reality. Truth is a property of propositions that correspond to the way things are. In other words, reality just is and we can evaluate statements or truth claims based on whether or not they correspond to reality. Truth in this sense is objective, that is, is independent of human preference and desire. Our feelings cannot alter or change truth. It is also important to note that Objective Truth is absolute in nature. Truth of this type is true at all times and in all places, regardless of the number of people who believe it or accept it. Ex: 2 + 2 = 4 is Absolutely True across the globe and throughout all of history. It just is. Even if 1 billion people don’t believe it or don’t like it—it’s still true. Even if you were never born—it would still be true. But how do we know which truth claims are absolute—especially in light of the fact that all religions make truth claims?
There are several tests in logic that we can apply to a truth claim to ascertain if it does in fact correspond to reality. There are three major tests: 1) Test of Correspondence; 2) Test of Coherence; 3) Test of Pragmatism.
Test of Correspondence
If I make the truth claim that “My car is in the parking lot.” When is this statement true? It is true when my car is in fact in parking lot. How would you test the claim? You go outside and see if my car is there or not. Or consider the following statement, “The square root of the hypotenuse equals the sum of the squares of the two sides of a right triangle.”
How would you test this truth claim? You would apply the claim to a right triangle and if the hypotenuse does equal the sum of the squares of the two sides than it is true.
Please notice that truth claims that are confirmed as true via the test of correspondence can be categorized as objective truth—not a matter of opinion.
Test of Coherence
Sometimes the test of correspondence is not available. Imagine a wife who is told that a small plane her husband was flying crashed in the part of the Atlantic Ocean known as the Bermuda Triangle. After days of searching, the Coast Guard tells the woman it believes her husband is dead. But without a body, the test of correspondence is difficult to apply.
The Test of Coherence basically asks: does the information contained in the proposition fit with everything else that we know? In cases where it is impossible to demonstrate correspondence between a proposition and the reality it describes, we can test a proposition’s truth in terms of how well it coheres with all other relevant information available to us. A life insurance company would want to establish the truthfulness of the claim before paying the poor widow what is due her. So if they find debris of a plane crash, and they cease to see any activity on any of the credit cards that belonged to the husband, and their private investigator confirms that no communication has taken place between the husband and any of his family members, etc,… the claim is accepted as true and the insurance policy is paid. Does that “prove” that the person actually died? No, but it’s the best we can do with the data we have. There is obviously a weakness in this test. When coherence is used as the exclusive test for truth, it seems to equate falsity with incomplete knowledge. It also seems unable to provide adequate verification of specific empirical claims. Please note that the proposition may in fact be true. Lack of evidence one way or the other does not disprove the proposition—the pilot is either dead or he is not. What this shows is that often times we don’t have enough information to establish with 100% certainty the veracity of a truth claim. It is establish only to a degree of probability.
Test of Pragmatism
The theory of pragmatism (or practice) holds that the test of truth is whether a belief works. This is the weakest test because false propositions sometimes work while true propositions do not. For example—the great controversy over the nature of our solar system between the Ptolemaic and the Copernican models provides an interesting case. The scientific and observational data seemed to fit the Ptolemaic model better than the data proposed by Copernicus, even though Copernicus was right—and his claims corresponded with reality. The problem turned out to be that Copernicus initially believed the earth’s rotation around the sun was circular rather than elliptical. So the numbers he was getting didn’t seem to “work” with the observational data. Once the correction was made and the system was calculated based on an elliptical orbit—the new data “worked” significantly better than the Ptolemaic Model.
Testing Christianity’s Claim to Truth
Having established some basic elements of truth, we can now address the issue of comparative religions and the truthfulness of Christianity. Please note that a systematic evaluation of the truth claims of every religion that has ever existed would be a herculean task that would take years and result in volumes of information—that’s not a practical approach. However, we can still make a rational, reasonable, evaluation of Christianity’s claim and highlight the truthfulness thereof in comparison with specific conflicting positions of other religions.
Yet another important clarification must be made at this point. There seems to be a popular notion that all religions are the same foundationally and the differences are only superficial. It’s the popular idea that all religions are different expressions of the same truth and all lead to God somehow. From a purely rational perspective, nothing could be further from the truth. The five major religions (Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity) are fundamentally different with only superficial similarities. They differ in their teachings on God, Jesus, the Nature of Man, Sin, Salvation, Heaven, Hell, Faith, etc,.. For example, Buddhism is an atheist religion (no god) while Hinduism is a polytheistic religion (many gods) and the other three are monotheistic (one god). The Law of Non-Contradiction states that contradictory propositions cannot all be true in the same sense and at the same time. Either there is a God or there isn’t a God, but Buddhism and Christianity cannot both be true about this foundational claim. So let us begin there.
A Rational Argument for God’s Existence (Christianity vs. Buddhism)
Premise 1 Every design implies a designer.
Premise 2 The universe has a great design.
Conclusion The universe has a great designer.
This logical syllogism is called a Modus Ponens argument and it is deductive in nature. In other words, if premise 1 & 2 are true than the conclusion MUST FOLLOW. Notice that both premise 1 & 2 can be and have been tested via correspondence and established as absolutely true.
This argument establishes God’s existence and serves to lift Christianity as truth and Buddhism as false.
PLEASE NOTE–I am keenly aware that the argument above does not point to the God of the Bible but rather to a god or gods. And thus only suits us to establish Buddhism’s claim that there is no god as false and at the same time establishes Christianity’s claim that there is a God as absolutely true. ALSO, it is important to understand that there are numerous other areas where the comparison of these two religions will weigh heavily in favor of the truthfulness of Christianity, but for the sake of brevity—I have chosen just one clear example.
Having established via the argument above, that there is a god, we must then address the question of god’s nature. Whose version of God is correct? Therefore, let us now consider a comparison regarding the nature of the God of Christianity vs Islam and Hinduism.
An Abductive Argument for the God of the Bible. (Christianity vs. Islam/Hinduism)
What is Abductive Reasoning? Abductive reasoning is a very commonly used tool in modern science, particularly the historical sciences (Geology, Paleontology, Anthropology etc.). It is very useful for explaining phenomena that happened in the past and is unrepeatable and unobservable. A geologist has to try to figure out what happened in the past by observing the existing evidence—as does a paleontologist when examining fossil remains. The method basically reasons back from the effect to the cause in search of the best possible explanation. This is an inductive approach, which by definition will not yield absolute proof—but rather proof to a level of probability.
For example, if I step outside in the morning and the grass is wet and there are puddles in the street I can assume they are the effect of some cause. Because I was sound asleep—all night, I did not witness the event that led to this effect and I must seek the best possible explanation for it. What are the possible causes? It could have been rain, or a broken water main, or a broken fire hydrant, or a broken sprinkler head, or a helicopter heading to towards a forest fire to dump water on it, but accidentally dropped it on my front yard, or any number of other “possible” explanations. However, I can easily dismiss many of these “possible” causes by simply applying the correspondence test of truth. I can go outside and check for broken sprinklers, broken fire hydrants, and broken water mains, and determine that none of these were the case. I can apply the test of coherence and determine that because I don’t live anywhere near a forest, nor are there any active forest fires in my entire state the probability of the helicopter cause is slim to non-existent. Thus I have reasonably concluded—to a very high degree of probability—that it rained while I was asleep.
In much the same way, we can observe the universe in which we live and make reasonable abductive arguments for the best possible cause. Since nobody was there to observe the beginning—it is the only logical approach to such a task.
To follow is a list of observations about our universe and what each observation tells us, logically, about the cause of such effects.
|Observation→||What it says about the Cause|
|Time had a beginning||The cause must exist beyond of the limitations of time (Eternal)|
|Matter had a beginning||The cause must exist beyond the limitations of matter (Immaterial)|
|Space had a beginning||The cause must exist beyond the limitations of space (Omnipresent)|
|There is an enormous amount of energy in the universe.||The cause must possess greater energy still (Omnipotent)|
|There are natural laws that govern all physical, biological, and chemical functions.||The cause must be organized and orderly (God of Order and Law Giver)|
|There is an incredibly precise balance or fine tuning between the physical constants of universe.||The cause must have a purpose in establishing such levels of precision and fine-tuning. (Purpose)|
|There exists highly complex detailed information expressed in a unique chemical language imbedded in the DNA of all living things.||The cause must possess intelligence beyond that of the effect (Omniscient)|
|The natural world shows incredible diversity of design.||The cause must be creative and value diversity (Creative)|
|Humans, as part of the natural world, are personal beings.||The cause must be a personal being (Personal)|
|Humans intrinsically hold to an absolute set of moral codes.||The cause must be hold to and value morality (Holy)|
|Humans intrinsically have the ability to love unconditionally and altruistically.||The cause must be loving. (Love)|
|Earth exhibits numerous characteristics that must be present for the existences of life.||The cause must have intended for Earth to be inhabited. (Planned Effect—Created)|
These are just some of the more obvious connections between the Cause (God) and the Effect (The Universe). The obvious question is: How do these connections establish the truthfulness of Christianity as opposed to Hinduism and Islam?
A careful comparative analysis of the sacred writings of Hinduism (the Gitas, the Upanishads, etc,), of Islam (the Koran and the Hadith) and of Christianity (the Bible) reveals a startling yet predictable outcome. The only sacred writings that reveal a god that fits EACH AND EVERY ONE of these necessary characteristics is the Bible. Thus, the God of the Bible is a perfect fit for the Cause of the Universe as we observe it. Whereas neither Allah nor the thousands of deities of the Hindu religion come anywhere close to have such a list of characteristics.
PLEASE NOTE that we can easily compare Christianity to Islam or Hinduism on MANY other points and we would find that the truthfulness of Christianity far surpasses either of these religions.
That leaves us with Christianity vs Judaism—since both are based at least partially on the same sacred text (The Old Testament). In order to determine which of these religions presents the truth we must consider the differences between the two as to the primary source of contention: JESUS.
The Case for Jesus the Messiah (Christianity vs. Judaism)
Jesus either was the promised Messiah or he was not. Therefore, both Judaism and Christianity cannot be true (law of non-contradiction). Nevertheless, the evidence is overwhelming as to the veracity of the claims of Christianity. Consider the following lines of evidence:
1) There were hundreds of Bible prophecies that were fulfilled in great detail by the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Most of these prophecies were written between 400 and 1000 years prior to Jesus’ birth (some even earlier). The nature of most of these prophecies was such that Jesus had no control over the fulfilment (i.e., birth place, birth circumstances, betrayal price, etc,…). Yet, the fulfilment was accurate and 100% complete. This line of evidence alone was effective in the conversion of many Jews during Jesus’ day and even greater numbers during the last 2000 years.
2) The wisdom and insight of Jesus’ teachings standout in history as unique and incredibly impacting. What Jesus was able to do in 3.5 years of ministry is absolute breathtaking. Consider a couple of quotes:
a. The character of Jesus “has been not only the highest pattern of virtue but the strongest incentive to its practice; and has exercised so deep an influence that it may be truly said that the simple record of 3 short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind than all the disquisition of philosophers, and all the exhortation of moralists.” W.E.H. Lecky Atheist Historian.
b. “That a few simple men [Matthew, Mark, Luke and John] should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so lofty an ethic, and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the Gospels.” Will Durant (Agnostic)
Please note that these are “hostile witnesses.” In other words, these are not Christians that are attesting to the virtues of Christ. When you add to this the attempt by most of the other religions to claim Jesus as one of their own—it speaks volumes. For example, Muslims claim that Jesus did not die on the cross—the Romans crucified the wrong man. Instead, Jesus fled Jerusalem and headed to the Arab Peninsula where he became a Muslim.
3) Jesus predicted and later fulfilled the promise that he would rise from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is not only attested to by eye witnesses in the Gospels and other New Testament writings, but it is also confirmed by other writings of the time—including historians that are held as reliable sources. The evidence for Jesus resurrection has been laid out in many outstanding books that are readily available.
Therefore, the case for Jesus as the promised Messiah is overwhelmingly stronger than the weak arguments brought forth by Judaism. Christianity stands as true in its affirmation of Jesus, whereas Judaism stands as false.
By means of a deductive argument for God’s existence, Christianity is found to be TRUE as opposed to Buddhism. By means of an abductive argument from creation, Christianity is found to be TRUE as opposed to Hinduism and Islam. By means of a consideration of several lines of evidence that prove Jesus to be the promised Messiah, Christianity is found to be TRUE as opposed to Judaism.
While none of these comparisons is exhaustive in nature, they are sufficient to establish the credibility and truthfulness of Christianity.
Recommended reading for further development of these and other strong arguments:
- The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary R. Habermas and Michael Licona
- The Historical Jesus by Gary R. Habermas
- The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
- The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel
- Creation Basics and Beyond: An In-Depth Look at Science, Origins, and Evolution by the Institute for Creation Research (ICR)
- Thinking About God: First Steps in Philosophy by Gregory E. Ganssle
- A Shot of Faith to the Head by Mitch Stokes
- Without Excuse by Werner Gitt
- Neighboring Faiths by Winfried Corduan
Dr. Juan Valdes is a bi-lingual speaker for Reasons for Hope (English and Spanish) and the senior pastor of a Spanish-speaking congregation in Miami, Florida. He has taught Theology, Bible and Apologetics at the seminary level in both English and Spanish and speaks regularly across the country and internationally at Pastor’s Conferences, Youth Conferences, Apologetics Conferences and local church events. Juan, his wife Daisy and their children, Juan Elias and Jessica serve in multiple areas of ministry in Miami, Florida.