Why Christianity?

Atheists often claim that the traditional arguments for the existence of God (i.e. ontological argument, Aquinas’ five ways incl. the first cause argument, Leibniz’ cosmological argument, Kalam cosmological argument, teleological arguments incl. the fine-tuning argument, moral argument, transcendental argument, etc.), even if all true, could at best establish a kind of monotheistic deism, but not the truth of any particular religion like Christianity. And guess what, these atheists are indeed right. However, these arguments do not even claim to prove Christianity in the first place, but "only" to demonstrate the truth of classical monotheism, with a God that has the following properties: a metaphysically ultimate, transcendent, uncreated, necessarily existing, simple (not composed of parts), immaterial, spaceless, timeless / eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, unembodied mind, endowed with freedom of the will, who is the creator and sustainer of all that exists, indeed being subsistent Being and the standard of Good himself, as well as the ultimate source of all values and meaning.

 

Based on the (in my humble opinion) overwhelming evidence for the truth of monotheism, established by the cosmological and teleological arguments, we can firmly dismiss atheism and naturalism, and open-mindedly explore, which of the monotheistic religions has the strongest evidence and most powerful arguments going for it.

 

So here I present seven strong arguments in favor of Christianity being true rather than Judaism or Islam:

 

1. Christianity has a superior concept of God's nature and personhood:

 Christianity differs from Judaism and Islam in claiming that God is a three-personal being (Trinity) rather than a unitarian being (called in Islam Tawhid). But have you ever asked yourself, why the Christian God is a Trinity rather than a divine duet, quartet, or larger chorus? Why should God be one in nature but exactly three and only three in persons? Doesn't this apparently arbitrary number contradict his necessary existence and make him a contingent being that just exists as ultimate brute fact?

 

Even most Christian apologists do not have a ready answer and often claim that the Trinity is simply a mystery that cannot be known by philosophical considerations but only by divine revelation. However, this is not true. The Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne suggested in his book "Was Jesus God" (2008) an ingenious explanation, for why God necessarily has to be a Trinity, so that the circumstance that he is three in persons does not involve any contingency.

 

Before we look at Swinburne's explanation, we first have to remember that theist philosophers almost universally agree that God, if he exists, must be a necessarily existing and maximally great being, possessing all possible perfections in infinite quality (not quantity). This Anselmian Perfect Being Theology implies that he also must be perfectly loving, because to be loving certainly is a great-making property. So which kind of God would be an exemplification of a perfectly loving being, the unitarian God of Judaism and Islam, or the trinitarian God of Christianity?

 

A unitarian God could only be loving if he creates other beings, whom he can love, because without creation he could only love himself, which arguably does not satisfy the definition of a perfectly loving being. But this would make God's perfection dependent on creation, which contradicts his perfection of aseity (not being dependent on anything outside of himself).

 

Swinburne showed that there are only three types of love:

1.) Self-love (a person selfishly loving himself).

2.) Love for another (i.e. a person loving another person).

3.) Cooperative love (i.e. two persons sharing the love for a third person).

 

Adding further beings (e.g., 15 beings sharing the love for 35 others) does not add any new type of being loving, but only adds redundancy and more diluted or more distributed versions of type 3. Therefore, only a God, who is exactly three in persons would be perfectly loving by instantiating all three types of love without redundancy. As we have seen already, to be perfectly loving is a great-making property that a maximally great being must possess. A unitarian God does not possess this property and thus cannot be a maximally great being that exists necessarily (see my blogpost on the Ontological Argument), contrary to the trinitarian God of Christianity. Of all monotheistic religions only Christianity has this superior concept of God, that was progressively revealed by God to man 2000 years before man came to understand this concept.

 

This argument could be formalized as follows:

Premise 1: If God exists, he is a necessarily existing and maximally perfect being.

Premise 2: Any maximally perfect being must be perfectly loving.

Premise 3: Only a tripersonal being can be perfectly loving.

Premise 4: Only the Christian God is tripersonal, while the God(s) of Judaism and Islam (and all other Gods) are unipersonal.

Conclusion: If God exists he must be the trinitarian Christian God.

 

Arguments against the coherence of a trinitarian understanding of God, or for the incompatibility of a trinitarian God with divine simplicity, fail to realize that the Trinity does neither make the incoherent claim that God is three persons in one person (but rather the coherent claim that God is one in nature and three in persons), nor does it imply that God is composed of three persons as metaphysical parts, which have independent existence (the three persons of the Trinity are sharing the same divine nature or essence, thus are not independent parts).

 

Swinburne's model is similar to the Catholic doctrine of "filioque": Father and Son, who is the eternally contemplated self-image of the Father, are affilated by the love for one another, while the Holy Spirit is the representation of this bond of love according to the Augustinian concept of the "vinculum amoris". The doctrine of divine simplicity guarantees that all three are equally persons, as well as all three equally God.

 

Trinity (c Wikimedia)
Trinity (c Wikimedia)

It should be mentioned that Swinburne's concept of God has been criticized by other philosophers as involving tritheism rather than trinitarianism (see here: 12). This indeed seems to be true. However, Swinburne's argument, that for instantiating the great-making property of perfect love, God necessarily must exist as three persons (see here), is totally independent of his possibly flawed other conceptions of God.

 


 

 

 

 

The One Minute Apologist: Jonathan McLatchie answers the question "Is the Trinity defensible philosophically?".

 

 


2. The Christian God is more loving than Allah:

According to the Bible, the Christian God loves all people including sinners and unbelievers. He hates sin, but not sinners. In contrast, the Quran is full of quotes like "Allah loves NOT the disbelievers", "Allah loves NOT the transgressors", "Allah hates the ..." etc. Allah only loves those, who love him back. But this is unworthy of a supremely loving being, which necessarily could only have an unconditional love for its creatures, in the sense of only wanting the Good for them.

 

This argument could be formalized as follows:

Premise 1: If God exists, he must be a necessarily existing and maximally perfect being.

Premise 2: Any maximally perfect being must be perfectly loving.

Premise 3: Any perfectly loving God must unconditionally love everyone including unbelievers and sinners.

Premise 4: The Christian God unconditionally loves everyone including unbelievers and sinners, while the God of Islam only loves believers but hates unbelievers and sinners.

Conclusion: If God exists he cannot be the God of Islam but only the God of Christianity (or other monotheistic religions that satisfy premises 2 and 3)

 

 

 

 

Christian philosopher William Lane Craig debates muslim apologist Shabir Ally on "The Concept of God in Islam and Christianity".

 

 


3. Christianity has the most satisfying theodicy:

Apart from divine hiddenness, the evidential problem of evil is arguably the only powerful argument in the arsenal of atheists. Every believer in an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God must have a plausible explanation for the coexistence of such a God with all the evil and suffering in the world. One of the best available theodicies is the so-called „free will defense“, which claims that human freedom is the morally sufficient reason for God to allow evil for the sake of a greater good (there are other theodicies for natural evil that "cooperate" with the free will defense of moral evil).

 

According to the free will defense, a main reason for God’s allowing of evil is to bring a maximum number (within the constraints of the created world) of finite creatures into a freely desired, eternal, loving relationship with him (invited to share the social divine life of the Trinity) as an act of grace towards his creatures, for whom’s sake he created the world at all (God had no need to create only to satisfy any desire in himself, i.e. he did not need finite beings to worship him). But which kind of free decisions of finite creatures does this imply? It not only implies a freely chosen love of God by his creatures (you cannot coerce anyone to freely love you), but also their free repentance of sin and free acceptance of God’s offer of forgiveness as requirement or cleansing to be worthy of heaven (see next point).

 

This emphasis of human freedom is only found in Christianity, but not in Judaism, which basically claims that you only have to follow a set of rules (the Mosaic law of the Torah) to make it into "heaven" (in the sense of eternal life after the general resurrection), and also not in Islam, which basically claims that you only have to be submissive (the very meaning of the word Islam) to God and worship him to get into eternal paradise (because God universally forgives all sins of muslim believers, while punishing all sins of non-believers). Only Christianity allows for free will as central issue of salvation and eschatology, and therefore makes a free will defense very plausible as theodicy.

 

We can formalize this argument as follows:

Premise 1: If God exists, he must have morally sufficient reasons (theodicy) to allow the abundant moral evil we observe in the world.

Premise 2: The most plausible and arguably only viable theodicy is that God created humans as moral agents with free will, and allows the abuse of free will for a greater good.

Premise 3: Such a free will defense only makes sense in Christianity (but not Judaism or Islam), because only the Christian God has love in the center of his two main commandments (love your God with all your heart ... and love your neighbor as yourself), and offers salvation by faith (rather than by works), which both require moral agents with free will.

Conclusion: Therefore, if God exists he is rather the Christian God than the God of Judaism or Islam.

 

It must be noted, that some Christian denominations (especially Calvinists) do not affirm libertarian free will, Therefore, they would not subscribe to the above argument. However, in my view (and that of many other Christians) their alternative doctrine of double predestination (in combination with unconditional election) is a morally abhorrent and false teaching, based on erroneous and incoherent interpretations of divine providence, love, grace, and salvation.

 

4. Christianity is the only religion, in which the infinite justness of God and the infinite grace of God can plausibly coexist:

Atheists often ask "Why had an innocent Jesus to die for our sins?" and "Why could a graceful God not just forgive our sins?". What such questions fail to realize, is that God is by his very nature not only infinitely graceful but also infinitely just. Forgiving our sins without satisfying his justness would thus be acting of God contrary to his nature, which is impossible just like God cannot commit suicide or sin. Therefore, the loving act of the divine judge to enter history and taking the just punishment on himself (penalty substitution theory of atonement), so that he can offer us the grace of forgiveness without compromising his justness, is the only theology that makes sense. Of course the realization of any forgiveness (even in our personal lives) requires an honest repentance of the wrongdoer and his humble acceptance of the offered forgiveness. God gave us the free will to respond positively or negatively to his gift of grace, and to freely decide if we do or do not want him in our life until eternity (see previous point).

 

We can formalize this argument as follows:

Premise 1: If God exists, he is a necessarily existing and maximally great being, who must exemplify perfect love, perfect justness and perfect grace.

Premise 2: God cannot act contrary to his nature. His nature of perfect justness requires the punishment of all sin, and his perfect grace requires his forgiveness of all sin.

Premise 3: If a perfectly loving God exists he would provide a solution to his sinful creatures, which allows his necessary desire to forgive of sin (perfect grace) to coexist with his necessary desire to punish sin (perfect justness).

Premise 4: Among the known religions only the Christian God provided such a solution with the self-sacrificial atonement of Jesus as penalty substitution.

Conclusion: Therefore, if God exists he is rather the Christian God than that of any other religion.

 

5. Christianity is validated by the historical evidence for the resurrection:

Christianity is in a special position, because the most profound miracle that distinguishes Christianity from other religions (i.e. the resurrection of Jesus) is open to a critical historical evaluation. Such an evaluation establishes a number of historical facts (minimal facts sensu Gary Habermas) that are even accepted by non-Christian scholars. An inference to the best explanation in terms of explanatory power, scope, and depth would clearly favor an explanation of these facts with the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Preferring other explanations with less scope and depth would have to be based on an anti-supernaturalist bias against miracles.

 

If the above mentioned arguments for the existence of God are successful, then not only is atheism refuted, but as well naturalism, so that any naturalist bias against the supernaturalist miracle claims of Christianity would be unfounded. If an omnipotent creator of the universe exists, miracles like the resurrection are mere childplay. A prior belief in theism greatly increases the prior probability for miracles. Therefore, the philosophical arguments for theism combined with the historical evidence for the resurrection represent a powerful argument in favor of the Christian faith.

 

 

 

Gary Habermas, foremost expert on the resurrection, lectures about  "The resurrection evidence that changed current scholarship", including his minimal facts approach.


 

This argument could be formalized as follows:

Premise 1: If Jesus was who he claimed to be, then Christianity is true and all other religions are false.

Premise 2: If Jesus was resurrected from the dead, then his claims have been authorized by a divine miracle and he indeed was who claimed to be.

Premise 3: An inference to the best explanation suggests that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the best explanation for the historical evidence.

Conclusion: Therefore, Christianity is more likely true than all other religions (including Judaism and Islam).

 

 

 

 

 

Closer to Truth: Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne answers the question "Can many religions all be true?".

 

 


6. Christianity is the only religion, where God is reaching down to man and really is a co-sufferer:

Christianity is unique among religions in that God reaches down to us humans and humbles himself to assume a human nature and immerses himself into the human condition including the experience of the most severe suffering. God really becomes a co-sufferer in Christ. This is more worthy of a  supremely good and loving God than the distant God of Judaism and Islam.

 

In his debates Dinesh d'Souza often made the important point that all religions address the gap between man and the divine. Even though they offer different solutions to bridge this gap, they all boil down to prescriptions, what man has to do to work his way up to God. Only Christianity says that this task is futile, because whatever man does, he can never ever bridge this fundamental gap. Therefore, God in his infinite love and grace came down to us and reaches out his hand to lift us up, and invites us to share in his divine life. 

 

This argument could be formalized as follows:

Premise 1: If God exists, he must be perfectly loving.

Premise 2: A God, who reaches down to his creatures, and even assumes their nature and suffers with and for them, is more loving than a distant God.

Premise 3: The Christian God is said to have reached down to humans, incarnated as human and suffered as human a sacrificial death for the salvation of all humans, while the God of Judaism and Islam does no such things but remains distant.

Conclusion: Therefore, if God exists, he is rather the Christian God than that of Judaism or Islam.

 

Based on a quote from Josh McDowell's book More than a Carpenter, Jefferson Bethke wonderfully phrases the same message in this viral YouTube video Why I hate religion but love Jesus: "Religion is man searching for God, but Christianity is God searching for man."

 

Even though the evangelical meme that "Christianity is not a religion but a relationship with God" (see here and here) is strictly speaking false, since Christianity of course also is a religion in the dictionary sense of the word, there still is indeed a grain of truth in it, because Christianity's core is definitely unlike that of any other religion. As philosopher Alvin Plantinga put it: "This display of love and mercy is not merely the greatest story ever told; it is the greatest story that could be told".

 

7. Fulfilled Messianic Prophecies:

There are numerous detailed prophecies (see here) in the Old Testament that were clearly written before the fact, and which have been fulfilled centuries later by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (e.g., Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 53, Psalms 22, Daniel 9). These prophecies are no wishy-washy statements like those of Nostradamus or magazine horoscopes. Furthermore, they often only make sense retrospectively, or were not recognized as messianic prophecies in the time of their writing. Several of the fulfilled prophecies were even totally contrary to anything that a first century Jew would have expected from the Messiah, which refutes the common objection that a merely human Jesus  could have fulfilled those prophecies deliberately, or that their fulfillment might have been forged by the Gospel authors. St. Augustine famously said that "the old testament is the new testament concealed and the new testament is the old testament revealed". Or as my friend Jonathan McLatchie puts it, the life of Jesus is a kind of key that unlocks the meaning of many parts of the Old Testament (e.g., Luke 24:45-46 indirectly validates Isaiah 53 as a Messianic prophecy).

 

Most non-Christians are surprised or even shocked, when they are confronted with the fact that the Old Testament speaks of an "anointed one", who's hand and feet will be pierced, centuries before crucifixion was even invented by the Persians as method of execution, and later adopted by the Romans. Likewise, they are surprised that Daniel 9:24-27, which even the most critical scholars do not date after 167 BC, predicted the coming of an "anointed one" (which is what the word "Christos" actually means in Greek), who "will be cut off" (= killed), for the Passover month of April 33 AD (see here). Historians mostly agree that Jesus either died in the Passover month of the year 30 or 33 AD (most likely Friday 3rd April 33 AD, see here), while astronomical evidence also points to Friday 3rd April 33 AD.

 

This argument could be formalized as follows:

Premise 1: If Jesus fulfilled OT prophecies that were demonstrably written before the fact, and if a forged fulfillment by Jesus or his followers can be shown to be unreasonable, then the most likely explanation is that the Bible is divinely inspired and Christianity is true.

Premise 2: Jesus did fulfill numerous OT prophecies that were demonstrably written before the fact, and a forged fulfillment by Jesus or his followers can be shown to be unreasonable.

3. Conclusion: Therefore, most likely the Bible is divinely inspired and Christianity is true, while other religions like Judaism and Islam are false.

 

 

 

 Josh McDowell, author of the book "New Evidence that Demands a Verdict" talks about the "Prophecies Jesus fulfilled" (starting at 4:35), and a moving personal testimony.

 

 


To sum up:

Monotheism can be powerfully established with several of the traditional arguments for God's existence. Moreover, we have seen seven good reasons to prefer Christianity over all other monotheistic religions. Therefore, one is not only rationally justified to be a Christian theist, but every rational theist indeed should be a Christian theist.

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Kommentare: 1
  • #1

    buyessayfast (Dienstag, 20 September 2016 15:53)

    I also prefer prefer Christianity over all other monotheistic religions. I do agree with some of the points from your article, but there are a lot of doubts as well. I will need to rethink about them.