1. How do you know God exists?
There are a number of reasons why I believe in God; I will briefly expound on a few of these:
1) the fact that the universe began; 2) that fact there is existence rather than not; 3) the fact that the universe and life reveals organisation, design, symmetry and systems so complicated that nature and random evolution could not possible offer an alternative explanation. This makes God probable and existence without God improbable.
Furthermore, my faith in God is based upon my own experience when becoming a Christian and experiencing the supernatural aspects and side of Christianity, what we describe as the power and presence of the Holy Spirit including (and this is the most vital aspect) its transforming effect upon my life.
A third reason for my belief in God is based upon my own research and studies. Having devoted myself to investigate the Christian faith historically has simply confirmed my faith in God and the Bible.
A fourth reason probably relates more to the field of ethics and logic. I find it utterly repulsive that atheists and post-modernists can refer to ethics as relative or simply genetically inherited, etc. The fact that the human mind incorporates the ability to distinguish between good and evil confirms a law and hence a law giver (of some kind); from this we can adduce that ‘all there is’ is not simply a meaningless and purposeless universe in which we attempt to perceive or make some sense; in fact without God life and nature leaves no room for life-meaning, law, right and wrong. I guess Stalin’s concentration camps and Hitler’s gas chambers are obvious evidences of such a philosophy perceived to its core.
2. What is a Christian?
We need to be cautious about the term 'Christian', while many people would categorize themselves as Christians, the majority falls short to the full Biblical meaning of what constitutes a genuine and true Christian.
A Christian is Biblically to be perceived as 1) an individual who believes in the one God of the Bible; 2) who believes in Jesus as God revealed in flesh who entered the world to atone and save humanity from sin and future judgement. 3) Furthermore, a Christian is someone who has embraced the doctrines of Christianity in faith, repented from a life that opposes the standard of God and consequently devoted his life in service God. This makes a person a follower and disciple of Jesus.
3. Does Christianity make people good?
Well to put it more correctly Jesus Christ transforms an individual to a very different lifestyle; so yes certainly, it makes an individual into a good person. A true Christian has not only devoted his life to submit to and follow God but equally to make a difference in the world and to help and support his fellow human beings.
Christianity is therefore to be perceived as a transforming religion; it transforms the individual and the community he or she lives in. This is the reason why Christianity is so attached to social work and relief work; communal transformation constitutes what his religion stands for.
The Bible makes it rather clear, that Christianity without personal and communal transformation is not Christianity.
4. Do you think Christianity might benefit a society?
In the UK where I live, Christianity is probably one of the major contributors in the society to reach out to the homeless, the broken families, those who are neglected and lonely including the morally neglected population of youth. In various UK locations, the government has commended and urged the church to lay the ground-work socially, where the government has failed, including to provide moral sexual education to a morally bankrupted youth culture. The money and time Christians poor into the community is simply unbelievable.
I would like to see atheists (if atheism really holds the key to the solution of mankind) put less attention into the complaining trend and propaganda and if they really care about society and humanity, to focus more on the everyday problem of decline of the Western civilisation caused by decades of secularist philosophy.
5. What about all the evil and atrocities Christians have committed throughout the centuries?
We need first to clarify which atrocities you have in mind. For example the Crusades, as wicked as they might have appeared, are not correctly categorized as a Christian campaign but more of a political response to Islamic invasion of Christian territory.
Furthermore, the atrocities often ascribed to the Catholic Church also need to be clarified. When Christianity became a state religion it led to an influx within society, the multitudes simply streamed into the church without conversion or proper Biblical understanding of what a Christian is. Many of these initially reached high levels in the so called Christian community, which led to early persecution of pagans. Still in all this, Christianity gradually transformed society even though such a progress took centuries.
Yet the bottom line is, that so called Christians or priests who engaged in the hunting of witches, Jews and heretics were simply not following the teachings of Jesus Christ, hence according to Christian Scripture these were not real Christians.
6. But does the Bible itself not confirm that these misconceived Christians were correct in their conduct?
If you are referring to the Old Testament, then no, not at all! It does not confirm that these people were following Christian conduct. The Old Testament constitutes the Mosaic Law for the nation of Israel in a specific time and in a specific situation including the narrative that accompanies it, followed by additional divine prophecy as the history of Israel proceeds. In Matthew, chapter 5 Jesus clarifies that he has come to fulfil the law and the prophets, which culminated with John the Baptist from which a new era derived, the Kingdom of God (Matthew, chapter 11).
Hence: 1) the Law had ended; 2) the narrative applies to the situation in which it occurred and 3) Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophets by fulfilling its predictions, in which the Servant of God would die as an atonement for the people and be brought to life again (Isaiah 53) and from which the Spirit of God would indwell his people. All these elements of the Kingdom of God were predicted in the Old Testament prophets.
Hence in contrast to the Law given to Israel, in the Kingdom of God, the followers are not told to fight physically for their faith or to engage in the cultural and situational norms that belonged to the Mosaic society due to its time and situation; this should be logical to anyone. Hence committing atrocities in the name of God or Jesus in a Christian context is breaking away from the teaching and ethics of the Kingdom of God.
7. What evidence is available that might support the historical claims of the Christian faith?
It’s an obvious fact that Jesus existed! His teaching and the narrative surrounding it were transmitted down to us by Jesus' own apostles. This resulted initially in 50 AD to 80 AD in two written records of this transmission, written by actual apostles (Matthew and John) and further two written works, one from apostolic dictation (the Gospel of Mark) and the other recorded from oral transmission (the Gospel of Luke). The latter ones were written by two apostolic disciples Mark and Luke. Mark recording the dictation of the Apostle Peter and Luke utilizing already existing written records (Matthew and Mark---sorry I am not convinced about the two-hypothesis theory nor Q) alongside oral transmission. All this occurred while apostles and other eyewitnesses of Jesus were still alive and mutually controlling the information.
These writings were written down between 50 AD and 80 AD only, the written record beginning as early as 20 years after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. Based upon the Jewish culture, environment and the Jewish ability and trend of the time to preserve and accurately transmit tradition it is most likely that the transmission was not corrupted nor lost within the 20 years gap between 30 AD and 50 AD. Neither was it lost in the following century, since the methods of preservation were still being applied. Furthermore, since this was the eyewitness era both corruption and loss of transmission is highly unlikely.
If we move toward the early second and late second century into the early third century, we possess a number of manuscripts of these writings. As we move from early third to late third century the number of manuscripts increases. Here we apply textual criticism. Interestingly, textual criticism has not revealed corruption or fabrication expect what we would naturally expect and recognise as typical textual errors.
So think of it this way: based upon the apostolic succession and transmission from 30AD to 90-100 AD and from 100 AD to 180 AD (the era of apostolic disciples) it is unthinkable that the information was corrupted. From that time one we already have empirical access to the information which due to the field of textual criticism confirms that the information was effectively preserved by writing.
Hence the supernatural history of the Gospels is combined effectively with secular history.
8. Why should anyone chose the Christian faith above another religious or philosophical path?
Well, atheism is in decline and has been in decline since the discovery of the Big Bang theory. In Science the fact that the universe has a beginning has not supported the philosophical ground for atheism.
Furthermore atheism has nothing to offer the world, except for the notion that we live in a senseless and meaningless universe in which laws and ethics are relative; these views are contradictory to observation and experience of nature and life in general and are repulsive to human achievements.
These views are not attractive to the human mind; in fact they are dangerous, as they reduce humanity to an animal and from that level to mere atoms. Furthermore, this view fails to strictly distinguish between good and evil, it also lead to individualism, causes moral decline, population decline and initially national breakdown.
This is why humanity needs to consider theism in its aspects, such as God, cosmological order and purpose, absolute morals and ethics, absolute rules, goals, etc.
Yet would not vote for any type of theism on the religious market!
There are a number of theistic religions which are false in their nature and origins. One has to consider which theism is the most original, logical and moral.
Since the Mosaic religion is a temporary religion meant for a certain people in a certain time and under certain circumstances, it is not to be deemed false yet it would be pointless to suggest that Judaism would work on a global scale for all people.
In the same way Islam fails on several grounds! Firstly, its origins are based upon a compilation of a variety of human sources not revelation; this provides evidence that Islam is a fabricated religion. Furthermore, Islam is by nature and from its origin a religion of war, it degrades women, suppresses and persecutes people with other opinions as well as being morally bankrupt in various areas of its view of life, such as permitting concubines, muta-marriages, rape of female captives and marriage to minors.
In the same way we need to consider Hinduism and the caste system.
Yet there is an even more effective way of discovering the theistic religion that by nature and origin presents the truth of divine intervention and revelation.
Considering all the major religions, Hinduism and Sikhism recognise Judaism, Christianity and Islam as alternative paths of salvation. However, Judaism, Christianity and Islam reject both Hinduism and Sikhism as divine revelations and paths to salvation; hence Hinduism and Sikhism annihilate their own credibility.
From here focusing on Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Islam recognises the founders and sacred writings of Judaism and Christianity, but Judaism and Christianity both reject Islam as a religion of God; here Islam annihilates itself.
This leaves only Judaism and Christianity. It is a fact that Christianity recognises the original religion of Israel, but Christianity does not recognise Judaism in its full sense. In the same way Judaism does not recognise Christianity.
However, Christianity has proven itself to be a legitimate continuation of the Old Testament religion of Israel. Which logically then proves Christianity to be most reliable religion on the religious market place.