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When Our Faith Is In Vain

Destroyed brickwallOn a number of occasions I have heard someone asked the question, “Is there anything that would cause you to walk away from Christianity?”  To this they replied, “No.  There is nothing that would ever cause me to walk away from my faith.” (Typically this is followed by some sort of comment about having had a real experience with God).

This sounds like the response of a strong, confident, unshaken faith.  But in reality, it is an answer with little integrity and may reflect a poorly reasoned faith.

Certainly Christianity is more than intellectual ascent to a set of ideas.  Christianity is not simply about understanding God, but about worshipping God.  A well-reasoned faith is not necessarily a genuine, transforming faith, a faith that loves God and honors Him with its utmost devotion.  However, this kind of genuine faith is only produced from a right understanding of who God is, what He has done and is doing in the world, and why we need Him.  There are not many ways to understand these things but one way.  And so we must seek these truths, discerning what is true and what is error, that our faith may be grounded upon truth, a faith that is reasonable, thoughtful, and durable.  Our faith must be more than subjective experience.

The point to be made is this:  there must be a set of conditions upon which we would abandon our faith if it is to be truly genuine and grounded on a particular set of truth claims.  If those truth claims can be shown to be untrustworthy and false, we should walk away.  Our faith lacks integrity unless we are willing to acknowledge this.

Lest one think that this is not biblical, let us examine Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:13-15:  “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”  Paul was acknowledging that if Christ is not truly resurrected then our faith is in vain.  We should walk away.  If the ideas that Christianity is grounded on can be shown to be untrustworthy then they should not be embraced and believed.

For me personally, there are two things that would lead me to abandon Christianity.  The first, like Paul, concerns the resurrection.  If the bones of Jesus Christ could be identified and shown to be His, then I too would walk away from Christianity.  I have absolutely no idea how anyone would prove that a particular set of bones would actually be Jesus’, but if it could be done in a convincing way, I would concede the error of Christianity’s claims.  However, the resurrection is quite possibly the most indestructible reality of the Christian faith.  There simply are no good responses to the truthfulness of Jesus’ bodily resurrection.  I don’t believe this truth will ever be proven false.  But if it is, then I must respond as Paul would.

The second thing that would lead me to walk away from Christianity is a solid case against the reliability of the Christian Scriptures, the Bible.  Certainly there are many arguments that have been made through the centuries against the Bible.  Some of them have been better than others.  I have studied them all and have found them to be uncompelling in the end.  The Bible is simply the most reliable, trustworthy document the world has ever seen.  I believe it records historically verifiable events and is available to us today as it was recorded by its authors.  I also believe it reflects supernatural authorship through its prophetic utterances, particularly related to the future coming of the Messiah, and possesses a unity and cohesion that is remarkably unhuman.  If the Bible is not a reliable record then we have no foundation.  I believe what I believe because the Bible says so.  If the Bible can be shown to be a poor source of divine truth, it must be discarded and the faith it reveals must be as well.

I am confident that these things are indeed true, and so I embrace the Bible’s story and claim to truth.  However, should either of these foundational realities:  the real bodily resurrection of Jesus and the reliability of the Bible, be shown to be false, our faith is truly in vain.  Fortunately, these realities have proven to be a sure foundation for two thousand years.  I don’t expect that will change.

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “When Our Faith Is In Vain

  1. This was really helpful. Not many people take this stance. However, don’t you think there is a point where faith has to come in when faced with what may seem like evidence against what you talked about? There have been many cases of people who say they have found the tomb of Jesus or found his body. In these cases shouldn’t we hold the word of God (which says he was resurrected) in a higher regard than these “evidences”?

    Posted by Jacob | October 6, 2009, 11:51 pm
  2. I find merit to Jacob’s question and find myself facing the same issue as he mentioned. I fully understand that our faith is based upon specific truths that if found to be false would undermind our entire religion, (i.e. Biblical inerrancy, the ressurection of Christ etc.) but when do we simply discard such “evidences” mentioned by Jacob, and when do we examine ones that seem to be more credible? Is there a place where we come to and say that our faith in the word is greater than whatever miniscule evidence the world offers that would attempt to prove to us otherwise?

    Posted by Caleb V. | October 7, 2009, 12:27 am
  3. Yeah, it’s a really good question Jacob (as always). I think that what you bring up is really valid. If the Bible is only true because this kind of examination makes it so, doesn’t that make it of greater authority than the Bible itself? Is historical and scientific knowledge more authoritative than Scripture? Doesn’t the Bible have to be able to stand on its own at some point if it is truly that which possesses greatest authority? I have thought a lot about this personally as well. I think there is some truth to this.

    The problem is, when you begin to approach this apologetically, there really is no way to defend Christianity’s truth claims. Now, some people believe that Christianity and the Bible and Christian truth simply don’t need to be defended. I can respect this position to a certain degree, but it isn’t good enough for me personally, and I think the Bible makes a case for making an informed defense of the faith and the Bible (2 Peter 1 for instance). Plus, how do we go about challenging other false religious belief systems? Why don’t you believe that the book of Mormon or the Quran are from God? Ultimately, if there are not some ways of being able to critique and verify the historical consistency of belief systems and truth claims in some way, we are left with my experience versus your experience.

    Does this make sense? I look forward to both of your comments. Great follow-up discussion to the post.

    Posted by albinomexican | October 7, 2009, 2:36 pm

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