How do we determine historical reliability?

In my previous post, I started to explore the question of “historical reliability” but got sidetracked into a variety of related issues.  To recap, there’s a spectrum of thought about whether historical accounts in the Bible are completely reliable or totally useless, or something in-between.

My own faith in Jesus Christ is built on the Gospels having met, in my judgment, enough of the criteria for historical reliability to make me believe that the main events (the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the basic outline of His teachings, the idea that He worked miracles) actually happened.  I don’t claim perfection for these documents, but as the phrase goes, if even half of what they said about this guy is true, Continue reading “How do we determine historical reliability?”

Did Jesus exist?

The title of this post is a bit odd for a blog about Christianity. After all, I believe Jesus exists (present tense) so the question is a bit like “have you stopped beating your wife?”.

Well, it wasn’t the original title, but I let myself wander a bit with this post, as you’ll see at the end.

Regarding the historicity of the Bible, there’s a spectrum of thought. On one end, we find Continue reading “Did Jesus exist?”

Which of the Ten Commandments are optional?

In my previous post, I mentioned a debate with a friend about the Pope’s politics.  In the midst of it, my friend tried to defend the commonly perceived connection between Christianity and conservative politics that the current Pope’s ministry has challenged.  One line of argument went something like “Religion is inherently conservative.  Which of the Ten Commandments are optional?  Do you think partial-birth abortion is right?”  To which I mumbled a response Continue reading “Which of the Ten Commandments are optional?”

Is it wrong to doubt?

In this post I am finishing up a three-part series on dealing with doubts. The first post asked whether Christianity’s claims depend on evidence and can be falsified, and answered in the affirmative. The second post went through one recent example of how unfavorable new evidence can come to light and, if one processes it honestly, “move the needle” adversely in terms of one’s faith. Here I will share some further thoughts Continue reading “Is it wrong to doubt?”

Why don’t Christians just keep their beliefs to themselves?

As you might guess by poking around this blog, I enjoy sharing my Christian faith.  I realize, however, that most non-Christians feel that they have heard enough about Christianity already, and are not eager to hear more.  Because of this, it is important for me (and other Christians) to be tactful and sensitive about the topic.  Rather than talking about God as often as I would like, I need to treat people with respect by taking note of their wishes, and being judicious in terms of when it is appropriate to bring up the subject.  When the topic does arise, I should avoid the temptation to monopolize the conversation, and should make sure that I reflect well on the Gospel by sharing it, as Peter said, with gentleness and respect.

Having said all that, Continue reading “Why don’t Christians just keep their beliefs to themselves?”

Does prayer achieve results?

Each person who believes in Jesus as the Son of God has different reasons for doing so.  I’ve summarized mine here and discussed them at length throughout the blog.  For some people, their personal experiences with prayer provide support for their belief in Jesus.  For others, such as myself, the relationship works more in the reverse.  I believe in the power of prayer because I believe in the authority of Jesus (on other grounds).  As such, I do not consider myself especially qualified to write about prayer.  Nonetheless, Continue reading “Does prayer achieve results?”

Does the Bible support slavery?

To begin with, it’s worth summarizing my understanding of the Bible.  In my view, it is not a single unified book, and not the inerrant Word of God.  Instead, I consider the Bible to be primary source material which, together with conscience, can help us to understand and relate to God to the extent we are capable.  I consider Jesus Christ to be Himself the Word of God (as alluded to in John 1), and the various books of the Bible are  Continue reading “Does the Bible support slavery?”

Does Christianity forbid sex before marriage?

Most Christian denominations do teach that sex before marriage is always a sin, and the importance of chastity is a common theme in Christian literature at least as far back as St. Augustine. I don’t take lightly the weight of tradition in this matter, and the purpose of this blog is not to set my own views up as being authoritative over those of other Christians. However, this blog does aim to honestly confront the issues that might be decisive in driving large numbers of people away from Christianity, and it must be admitted that this is one of those issues. It has been reported that in present-day America, most people have sex before marriage (~95%). So do most conservative Protestants who are active in their faith (~80%). It is not unusual Continue reading “Does Christianity forbid sex before marriage?”

Why did Jesus die for us?

For me, this is one of the most mysterious issues in Christianity.  Like many of the other posts on this blog, this one is not going to provide a precise answer, but rather some possibilities to consider.

Nevertheless, while I’m unclear as to the why and the how of it, I affirm that Jesus did indeed die for us. This is not a peripheral part of the Christian message. It does not at all appear to be something added on by the biblical writers or later Church leaders, nor is it something where Jesus has been misunderstood. Rather, it seems to be the abundantly clear teaching of the New Testament that Jesus gave up his life for our sake.

It is true that Jesus taught a lot about morality. But He didn’t present Himself as a moral innovator, but rather as one who illustrates (and calls us back to) timeless moral truths that we already knew inside our hearts. For example, Continue reading “Why did Jesus die for us?”

Did God order the Israelites to commit genocide?

The Old Testament contains many passages that are difficult to believe.  There are of course problems with scientific, geographical, or historical details, the most famous of these being the six-day creation.  These issues do not present severe difficulty except to the fundamentalist who insists on taking every word literally.  Allegorical interpretations of the Genesis story have been part of mainstream Christian thought since long before the scientific age.

The more serious concerns with the Old Testament come from passages where either the “moral of the story” itself, or the life lesson that a believer could be expected to draw from a passage, or the depiction of the character of God, strikes us as terribly wrong.  For example, in Numbers 5:11-29, we read that Continue reading “Did God order the Israelites to commit genocide?”