Friday, April 27, 2012

Challenges from 'Atheists': Why Do You Believe in the Christian God?

by Rob Lundberg

This is the first part of a series responding to questions that came from dialogues with atheists at March 24th's Reason Rally.

Christianity is a monotheistic faith.  However have you ever wondered about the other monotheistic faiths and why you believe in the Christian God of the Bible and not Allah?  Why do you believe differently from the Judaistic view of God?  

This question came from an atheist to me at the Reason Rally in the form of "why do you believe in the Christian 'God'?"  You know I had never been asked that question before.  However with a pause and a little thought, it really was not difficult a question.  Christian need to know how to answer this question, which is another reason to have apologetics training in our churches.

Dissecting the Question.

Whenever a question like this comes to the "table,' it is important to think about any alternative options that might come to the forefront.  Really this question is not difficult and it comes from the idea of religious relativism and the thinking that "if all gods are the same, why believe in the Christian "God?"  The question also self-destructs when one examines the popular world religions and their ideas of "God."

Breaking It Down.

First off the question shows an ignorance (in a positive sense) of world religions.  Not all religions say the same things.  All religions are superficially the same in that they try to answer the question of ethics (what is right and wrong?), and metaphysics (what is real?), and even epistemology (how does one know what is knowable?).   They all have answers to the four (4) fundamental questions that every worldview must answer cohesively:  (a) origin (Where do I come from?), (b) meaning (Why am I here?), (c) morality (How can I change?) and (d) destiny (Where am I going once this life is complete?).

These questions are the fundamental questions that every worldview must answer cohesively.  Bearing on this thought, every religion is within the scope of a worldview.  Of the four major world views (monotheism, atheism, pantheism and polytheism) each have their views of God's essence, existence or non-existence. 

From the monotheistic religions we have Christianity, Judaism and Islam.  All three of these religions believe that "God" is personal, in that "God" (Elohim and Allah) are personal entities but they are NOT THE SAME.  The question that remains, is is this "God" knowable in that can one know this "God" on a personal level?   

The answers even within the scope of monotheism differ.  How is this?  Certain strains of Judaism say "yes" and others say "no."  Islam says "no"you cannot know Allah personally.  More could be said about this and perhaps if you would like to pose a question below, I can treat this further.

Within the scope of the pantheistic religions of Hinduism and the Mahayana school of Buddhism, "God" is impersonal, and unknowable.  The concept of pantheism ("everything is "god"") separates these religions' views of God from the monotheistic religions.   The Theravada school of thought within Buddhism is more atheistic than the Mahayana school of thought. 

Mormonism, which professes to be a strain of Christianity is polytheistic in that there are many gods, and that Jesus is the only God in which they have to do.  This concept of polytheism falls under a henotheistic view of the metaphysical understanding of "God's" existence.  By henotheism, I refer to the belief and worship of a single god (in the case of the LDS that is Jesus) while accepting the existence or potential existence of other gods and goddesses. 


So why do I believe in the Christian God?  It is because the Christian God is self-existent, uncaused First Cause.  The Christian God, being uncreated, that is God is not created by human hands, unlike the pagan religions and in the minds of the atheists who contrive a God different from what I am describing, so as to try and defend their own personal rhetoric.  Not only is the Christian God these things, but God shows His personableness having created the universe from nothing, and fine tuned it for our existence (athropic principle). This same God is knowable in that He can be known through His Word (the Bible) and through an existential experience that is based on that Word.  The Bible is an historical record of His intervention into human history and describes Jesus who is fully God and fully man,  coming to demonstrate the life of God in front of sinful human beings, ultimately dying on a cross for the sins of humanity, and rising from the dead in the same body in which He was crucified.   Personal, loving, holy, just, and righteous.  Nothing can be said of the gods of Islam, and the pantheistic religions. 

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