Christianity Worth Thinking About
How Do You Know Christianity Is True?
July 16, 1995
|A friend of mine (and someone who is very involved with
Stand to Reason) told me that she was asked by her son, "Why do we
believe Christianity is true?" She had to pause for a minute. The
reason she had to pause is that she had all of this information from being
exposed to Stand to Reason and she had to sort
through and decide what the best way was to communicate to her young son
and answer his question.
It is possible to go into all kinds of lines of thinking about the
authority of the Bible, about the necessity of the existence of God, about
fulfilled prophecy, about the historical Jesus, about discussion of a
philosophic nature--there are all kinds of different ways of approaching
his question. I got to thinking about that myself, and I thought how I
would answer that question from a youngster? What is the simplest, most
direct way-- without sacrificing the compelling nature of an argument--to
answer this question? Why do I believe that Christianity is true?
Not only is it good to have an answer, but to have a simple, direct,
but useful answer for someone who is younger and perhaps can't negotiate
the details of a more philosophic and complex argument. And there happen
to be a lot of other people who just aren't interested in that kind of
thing. Even if they are adults, they aren't going to sit still long enough
to listen to that kind of argument.
Even if they are adults, they aren't going to
sit still long enough to listen to that kind of argument.
|It reminded me of a time maybe six years ago when I was
doing some speaking about witnessing on airplanes and how I explain the
Gospel in a simple way. I gave my answer "I believe Christianity is
true because Jesus said it was." Of course more follow up dialogue is
important here, and I will show you in just a moment that there are some
liabilities here. But there is something really cogent and powerful about
this answer because what it does is remove all the responsibility from
your shoulders to be the expert and the one who has all the answers. In
fact, what it amounts to is an admission that we have to go to an expert
to answer questions like this.
If a youngster would ask me a question like that I would say,
"What do you do when you have a difficult question about an area you
don't have a lot of knowledge of? Well, you come to your parents, right?
Why would you come to ask me? Because you don't know something and you
think that I might because I've been around longer and I have more
knowledge. That is a wise thing to do."
Of course, the question then is, "Does the person you go to have
the qualifications to answer the question well?" That is why it is
helpful to defer the question one more step. You can say, "You come
to me because you think I know better, and I'll tell you how I solve this.
I go to someone else that I think knows better than me. I seek out an
expert, someone who has the qualifications to know what he is talking
about in a given area--in this case, the area of spiritual truth. Simply
put, I believe Christianity is true because Jesus said it was. Or to put
it more precisely, Jesus said He was true. So I believe Jesus and
Jesus' explanation of knowing God and understanding the spiritual realm,
accessing the Father and being accepted by Him. Jesus' statement was that
He had the truth, and I think Jesus had tremendous credibility." In
other words, this is an argument by authority. The simplest way to answer
the question is just to appeal to Jesus.
There is a liability that in the minds of many people what Jesus had to
teach was open to vast interpretation. This can work against you unless
you know how to handle that issue.
What's amazing to me is that most people actually have a respect for
Jesus; they are very willing to quote Him when they think something that
He said substantiates their own point of view. But when you call up Jesus,
they object that that's just your interpretation and no one can know for
sure. Sometimes this is the case of the tail wagging the dog. Jesus isn't
right because he agrees with you, you're right because you happen to agree
Most people genuinely look up to Jesus as some
sort of spiritual and ethical authority.
|The liability in using Jesus as an authority is that you
have to have a clear idea of what Jesus taught. You must understand
something about the life of Jesus and his teachings in order to defer to
Jesus' authority on these things. Most people genuinely look up to Jesus
as some sort of spiritual and ethical authority. That is why it always
mystifies me that those who quote Jesus almost have never given His life
and His teachings a very thorough study. They sometimes end up attributing
to Jesus sentiments that were exactly the opposite of what He taught.
If people are willing to quote Jesus as somebody who is an authority,
doesn't it seem to make sense to be careful to quote not just Jesus'
words, but Jesus' ideas. We can't just pluck statements that Jesus made
out of context to support our point of view. We under gird our point of
view by referring back to Jesus as an authority, but that only works if we
accurately understand what Jesus had to say. The only way we can do so is
by studying the teachings of Jesus in some kind of systematic fashion.
It's mystifying to me that so many people who quote Jesus in this fashion
have not the slightest idea of what Jesus was all about and what He
"Who are you to say? That is just your own
|When you appeal to Jesus' authority like that, the
rejoinder you might get--and this represents the liability in presenting
this kind of argument--is something like this: "Who are you to say?
That is just your own interpretation." It's an effective parry unless
you know how to deal with it because this objection misses the point
My response is this: "I am no one to say. That's the point.
I am not speaking about spiritual things on my own authority. I am
deferring to Jesus. I am not asking you to listen to my view of the truth.
Jesus is the one who is the expert, so let's listen to Him."
What about the issue of it being your own interpretation? That is why
we have to look closely at what Jesus said. I've studied Him for twenty
some years. I've studied His teachings carefully. That doesn't mean that I
necessarily understand everything accurately. However it strikes me that
one who has given more consideration to the full body of Jesus' teachings
in the context of the language, culture, and thinking of the time is more
likely to give an accurate interpretation than someone who has given no
thought whatsoever to it and is simply plucking sayings out of the sky
hoping that it will substantiate his own point of view.
This brings us, by the way, to the goal of interpretation. The goal of
interpretation is not to invent ideas that I can put into Jesus' mouth and
then call it my interpretation. The goal of interpretation is to figure
out what Jesus meant since He is the authority, not I.
This, by the way, is where the argument turns into a liability--not for
me, since I've clarified now what we are trying to accomplish with
interpretation and who the authority is, but it turns it into a liability
for the objector. The reason is because Jesus' teaching is not all that
hard. It certainly is not as hard as people make it out to be. It just
takes a little attention.
Quite frankly, the real problem is that much of what Jesus taught is
not only obvious, but so deeply offensive to the modern mind, that only
the most benign and general of His teachings and moral principles can be
seized upon without much threat. People who make these kinds of statements
never seize on statements of the woes and judgment that will fall on those
who reject Him and don't believe Him. Rather, they seize things like
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Or,
"You must have the faith of a child to enter the Kingdom of
God." Or, "The Kingdom of God is within you." All this kind
of mysterious, gentle, easy-going ideas that don't make a strong challenge
to your moral choices.
. . .Jesus was among the most judgmental
of all people if you look at the corpus of His teachings and His work, but
He judged properly and appropriately.
|Don't forget the one that is quoted more often than any
other of Jesus' sayings: "Judge not, lest ye be judged." Of
course, that is always brought up to get out from underneath the thumb of
Jesus. They don't know where it is at or what it means, but it sounds like
it gets them out of a fix. "Don't judge Me." That's what Jesus
said. Ladies and gentlemen, Jesus was among the most judgmental of
all people if you look at the corpus of His teachings and His work, but He
judged properly and appropriately.
Other than those simple sayings, virtually everything else that Jesus
taught is so obviously an indictment that it is avoided, ignored, or
dismissed as only your interpretation. The one strong sentiment that those
who are non-believers do raise has to do with religious hypocrisy. Almost
without exception, that statement of Jesus, rather than being a tool that
they can use against Christians, becomes a weapon that God uses against
Curiously, people say to you, "Get out of here with your 'Jesus
only' business. I'm not a sinner. I am not in need of salvation. I haven't
done anything really wrong. You religious people, you are the people that
Jesus squawked about. He was more on my side, like the people with the
prostitutes, and the homosexuals, and all the down and out." Jesus
wasn't on their side. Jesus was against anyone who felt that they didn't
need forgiveness because of their own sense of righteousness. Jesus
aligned Himself with those who, because their unrighteousness was so
obvious to them, were willing to reach out and ask for forgiveness.
How do I know Christianity is true? Jesus said it was. I think Jesus
knows what He is talking about. He is the expert, not me. If you don't
believe me, just read it. It's all there, plain as day.
||This is a transcript of a commentary
from the radio show
"Stand to Reason," with Gregory Koukl. It is made available to
you at no charge through the faithful giving of those who support Stand to
|"How Do You
Know Christianity Is True?"
©1995 Gregory Koukl
Reproduction permitted for non-commercial use only
Stand To Reason, 1-800-2-REASON
Posted: December 28, 1995