Is Christianity easy or hard?

Today is Saturday and this morning my intention had been to sleep late after a long week.  As is sometimes the case, I found myself partially awake (I was going to say half-awake, but upon reflection it felt closer to three-fourths awake) far earlier than I wanted to be and resolved that if I just stayed put I would eventually fall back asleep.  This is indeed what happened, but some thoughts came to me during that partially awake period that remained with me when I woke up for good a few hours later.  I don’t remember the path of my thoughts, but I was thinking about life, and God, and what I should be doing, and whether I should write about it, and my mind was drawn towards this saying Continue reading “Is Christianity easy or hard?”

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 free will exist?

I believe that yes, I do have free will.  By this, I mean I make genuine choices, not predetermined either by God, by the laws of physics, or by some combination of nature and environment.  I felt it was an important question to answer on this blog (because other questions I’ve addressed, such as this one, are related to it), but I’m not going to attempt a comprehensive exploration of this question here, for three reasons.

First, the question has been around so long and so much has already been written about it (for example, start here and branch out), and I don’t think my thoughts on it are especially original.

Second, most of the evidence Continue reading “Does free will exist?”

Do people believe in God just because their parents did?

Occasionally I’ve heard a simplistic argument against belief in God that goes something like this: “You believe in God just because your parents did.”  The usual implication (either explicit or left unstated) is that any arguments in favor of God’s existence that I might offer would be biased, and therefore do not need to be considered by the listener on their merits.  This type of argument is commonly classified as ad hominem circumstantial, and labeled fallacious because one’s disposition to make a certain argument does not make the argument false.  (In an essay on this topic, Continue reading “Do people believe in God just because their parents did?”

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?”

What kind of God would punish people in hell forever?

The whole idea of hell is a complicated one.  It’s also very important, and I would encourage readers to work through the material in this post and read the scriptures to which I have added links.

There is first of all difficulty in defining what hell is.  Conservative Protestants generally consider it to be a place, while Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican theologian typically define hell as a state of separation from God.  The influential King James Version of the Bible translates three different biblical terms – Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus – as “hell”, masking shades of meaning in each term.

The basic premise, outlined by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, Continue reading “What kind of God would punish people in hell forever?”

Does God hate gays?

No. Christianity is clear that God is love, and doesn’t hate any of His children. Anyone claiming to the contrary is badly misrepresenting the Christian faith. Such voices get far more attention than they deserve, and I won’t dignify any of them with a link.

The more significant controversy is whether gay relationships are by their nature sinful, or not. Christian social conservatives use biblical arguments to attack homosexual behavior rather than gay people.  They are typically careful to remind people to “love the sinner, hate the sin”.  For some, this maxim might just be lip service to cover up a prejudice to which the biblical passages provide convenient support.  There is no good reason, however, to believe that all or even a majority fit that description.  Just as it is possible to “love the sinner, hate the sin”, it is possible to disagree with someone’s argument, but give their sincerity the benefit of the doubt.

Other Christians interpret the same scriptures much differently.   Continue reading “Does God hate gays?”

Didn’t Christianity just copy from earlier religions?

C.S. Lewis gives a good answer to essentially this question in God In The Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics.

I can’t say for certain which bits came into Christianity from earlier religions.  An enormous amount did.  I should find it hard to believe Christianity if that were not so. I couldn’t believe that nine hundred and ninety-nine religions were completely false and the remaining one true.  In reality, Christianity is primarily the fulfillment of the Jewish religion, but also the fulfillment of what was vaguely hinted in all the religions at their best.  What was vaguely seen in them all comes into focus in Christianity – just as God Himself comes into focus by becoming a Man.

One observation often made is that Continue reading “Didn’t Christianity just copy from earlier religions?”