Don’t impose your exclusive views on me.
How can you believe in a God who’d allow so much senseless evil and suffering?
On what basis do you believe Jesus rose from the dead—besides blind faith, of course?
No religion has the whole truth—including yours.
Whether couched as questions or assertions, we’ve all encountered objections like these. Perhaps you’ve even voiced a few yourself. For some, of course, they’re smokescreens. For many others, though, they sincerely express confusion, frustration, uncertainty, and unbelief. As Christians we seek to prompt unbelievers to “doubt their doubts,” as Tim Keller puts it, but we must do so with patient love (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Our friends—and their objections—deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.
In the spirit of those old “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories, James Anderson utilizes a creative approach in his new book, What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions (Crossway). In it he leads readers on an “interactive journey of discovery” aimed at helping us identify, understand, and evaluate our various worldviews. At a little more than 100 pages, What’s Your Worldview? would make for a winsome, non-threatening conversation starter with that skeptical friend or family member you love.
I posed four popular objections to Anderson, professor of theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, in light of his new book.
How can you say your perspective on truth is any more valid than anyone else’s? Truth is a personal and social construct, and it’s intolerant to impose your exclusive views on me.
Certainly everyone has their own perspective on the truth, but it doesn’t follow that all perspectives are equally valid or valuable. A neurosurgeon’s perspective on the gray stuff inside your head is different from mine, but which of us would you rather have performing brain surgery on you? If anyone’s perspective is just as valid as anyone else’s, it would make no sense for us to talk about “experts” or “specialists” in different fields.
The claim that “truth is a personal and social construct” is self-defeating, since it would mean the claim itself is merely a personal and social construct—in which case it doesn’t have to be universally true. It also appears to be an “exclusive view” since it excludes other views of truth.
As a Christian, I don’t seek to impose my views on other people, but I do try to explain the reasons why I hold those views, reasons I hope they’d also find persuasive. Knowing the truth is important to all of us, in all areas of life, and it would actually be quite selfish to keep our reasons to ourselves if they might help others in their pursuit of the truth.
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning play J.B., Archibald MacLeish nails it when his character Nickles declares: “If God is God, he is not good; if God is good, he is not God.” How can you believe in a God who would allow so much senseless evil and suffering in the world?
Nickles gets it exactly backwards. God is by nature good; if God isn’t good, he isn’t really God. Or to be more precise: if there’s no good God, there’s no God at all. I agree that there’s horrific evil and suffering in the world, which can strain our faith in God to the limits, but as a Christian I have to reject the assumption that it’s senseless. It may appear senseless to us, but we don’t have God’s comprehensive perspective on events. If there is an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God, then he must have good reasons for permitting the evil and suffering that exists—whether or not we ourselves can discern those reasons. The Bible gives us some insight into God’s reasons for permitting evil and suffering, even if it doesn’t answer all our questions.
In the end, the reality of evil and suffering actually reinforces my belief in God, for if there were no God there would be no ultimate basis for distinguishing between good and evil. How could anything be literally evil in a godless, purposeless, ultimately meaningless universe? If humans are just one of the many accidental products of mindless natural processes, why would our experiences have any special significance? The universe neither knows nor cares—but God does.
On what basis do you believe Jesus actually—physically—rose from the dead (besides blind faith, of course)?
I have faith that Jesus rose from the dead, but it isn’t a blind faith, because there’s good reason to believe he did. I believe Jesus rose from the dead primarily because of the eyewitness testimony of people who knew him and claimed to have spoken and eaten with him days after he was publicly executed—testimony that was written down and has been faithfully preserved over the centuries in the books and letters of the New Testament. These eyewitness accounts have what C. S. Lewis called “the ring of truth.” They come from multiple independent sources, and they’re too early and unembellished to be legends that developed decades after Jesus’ life.
God would certainly have the power to raise Jesus from the dead. And the resurrection wasn’t a random, freak event; it fits perfectly into a storyline that began thousands of years before Jesus’ birth. When I consider the broader historical context, I find the alternative explanations (e.g., the witnesses were lying, hallucinating, or simply mistaken) far less credible than the idea that Jesus really did rise from the dead, just as he himself predicted.
It’s narrow-minded and intolerant to claim Jesus is the only way to God. No religion has the whole truth—including yours.
If it’s narrow-minded and intolerant to claim that Jesus is the only way to God, then Jesus himself must have been narrow-minded and intolerant, because that’s exactly what he claimed about himself (see, for example, Matthew 11:27 and John 14:6). Jesus also claimed to be the Son of God from heaven and that only those who believe in him will have eternal life. Yet when we read the four Gospels, we don’t encounter a narrow-minded, intolerant, arrogant man. Rather, we see a wide-hearted, selfless, and humble man, full of grace and compassion toward others.
When you say, “No religion has the whole truth,” I have to ask: How do you know? How could you know? Have you thoroughly investigated every world religion? And wouldn’t you need some kind of access to the whole truth yourself in order to make the judgment that no religion has the whole truth? The more pertinent question isn’t whether any religion has the whole truth, but whether the central and defining claims of any particular religion are in fact true.
Christians don’t claim to possess the whole truth. Only God could make that claim! But we do believe God has revealed the most important truths through Jesus, and that Jesus has more credibility than anyone else in his claim to know—indeed, to be—the way to God. Is there anyone in history who has a more credible claim to know God? Is there anyone who showed greater insight into the human heart and our deepest spiritual needs? Don’t take my word for it. Study the Gospels for yourself and draw your own conclusions!