The Strongest Argument Against Christianity
There are a lot of arguments people like to make against Christianity. First, let me define what I mean by “Christianity.” When I say Christianity I mean the system of beliefs based on Jesus of Nazareth. To briefly summarize, Christians generally believe that God created the world good, but it was broken by the disobedience of humanity. This disobedience is called sin, and the penalty for sin is death, which separates humanity from God. The gospel is that God sent Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins by his death on the cross in order for believers to have eternal life with their Creator, evidenced by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. I’m going to argue that this worldview is actually very consistent with a lot of secular evidence, despite common arguments people like to make against it. However, I think that the strongest argument against Christianity can be made by comparing modern Christians with the Bible.
If I look at all the scientific evidence, I see nothing that directly contradicts the proclamations of Christianity. Science has never made any discoveries that disagree with the idea that some intelligent being designed life and the universe. Rather, science has made many discoveries that can be interpreted in different ways. You can look at the world of science and see it as evidence of intelligent design, or you can look at the world of science and see it as the product of time and chance. I would argue that both views are pretty consistent internally, but I don’t think modern science can determine which worldview is more accurate.
If I look at philosophical arguments against Christianity, the most prominent is that God cannot be both good and powerful since so much evil and suffering exists in the world. However, I would argue that the current reality of evil is actually very consistent with the Christian worldview. If God created the world good and made humanity in his image, but people decided to disobey God, then a broken world would result. Then we would expect to see an imperfect world filled with people doing bad things to each other, people dying, and people realizing that this is not how the world is supposed to be. And this precisely describes our world. Like with science, you can interpret the world in different ways. You can look at the world as a place messed up by sin, which God is in the process of fixing, or you can look at the world as a place messed up because there is no God. But the evil in the world does not contradict Christianity’s presentation of the world.
If I look at the historical evidence, there is nothing that directly contradicts the primary message of Christianity concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s indisputable that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. There’s no reason for Jewish common people to invent a story in which their messiah gets killed. It’s most likely that the tomb of Jesus became empty because if the corpse of Jesus was clearly present in the tomb, no one would believe he was raised from the dead. Also, there’s pretty good evidence that something drastically caused the disciples to truly believe Jesus was raised from the dead. Written accounts record that the disciples initially doubted the resurrection (which is embarrassing, so it’s probably true), and it makes no sense for them to go from publicly doubting Jesus to suffering and dying for lies in favor of Jesus. People are sometimes willing to suffer and die for what they believe is true, but I don’t know of a case where someone suffers and dies for what they know is a lie. So again, all this evidence can be interpreted in different ways, but it does not disagree with Christianity.
Most of the evidence people try to use against Christianity can be easily viewed in a manner consistent with the claims of Christianity; on the contrary, I have found that the most damaging evidence comes not from without the church but from within the church. And when I say “church,” I don’t mean a certain building or a specific organization; I mean the communities of people who call themselves Christians.
According to the Christian Bible, when someone puts their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, something remarkable happens: the Spirit of God enters into the believer and acts as a “guarantee” for heaven. Jesus said the Holy Spirit “will teach you all things” and “guide you into all the truth.” Paul wrote that “the fruit of the Spirit is love” and that if “anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Ezekiel prophesied that the Holy Spirit would “cause you to walk in [God’s] statutes and be careful to obey [his] rules.” However, when I look at the church, I don’t usually see a community of transformed people who are careful to obey God’s rules and are characterized by love. Usually, I see a group of people not radically different from other groups of people. Churches tend to act just as superficial with just as many problems as any human organization without the Spirit of God. Christians seem to make just as many mistakes as non-Christians, if not more, and usually don’t act or feel like a new creation. And there are some who used to call themselves Christian who apparently were not guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.
We can try to justify this in a couple of ways. First, we might say that not everyone who is part of the church has truly put their faith in Jesus Christ, in which case they would not have received the Holy Spirit nor have experienced any biblical transformation. If enough members of a particular church were false positives, then that church would be a poor example of the Christian community exposited in the Bible. Second, we might say it’s very difficult to compare people with different backgrounds who are in different walks of life. If a professing Christian commits adultery, it’s easy to compare him to a virtuous atheist instead of considering the complex factors of each of their individual lives.
However, while we can try to interpret away some of these problems, they’re far too pervasive, in my opinion, compared to what I would expect. According to the Bible, Christians have put on a new nature “which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” This means God should be transforming Christians to be more like Jesus in nature, but this does not seem to be happening at an appropriate rate. Sometimes, Christians look less like Jesus than other people. I think the worst cases are when people who are indisputably Christian are involved in doing things that are very hurtful. If God’s Spirit is supposed to guide us into all truth, then how come he doesn’t seem to be completely effective?
So what does all this mean? If you’re Christian, it’s really easy to point the finger at other Christians and at other churches. It might be easy to blame old traditional churches or strict conservative churches as missing the whole point of Christianity. But really, you should be looking at yourself and your own church community. When I was part of a Christian student organization at Cal, it felt like a good community that really understood the purpose of Jesus. However, at meetings it was really easy for me to talk only with my friends or to focus on people I found attractive, and that builds a culture of exclusivity and superficiality, which can lead to very negative outcomes. Someone in desperate need of Christian community might not feel welcome. Because of this, someone might find himself on a much darker path. And this has definitely happened. Usually, it’s because everyone tends to be a little less mindful than they ought to be, which escalates quickly if done communally.
I really don’t know what all this means, but I’ll make a list of things that I think could help reduce some of these problems. 1) Be like Jesus by making a proactive effort to be welcoming, accepting, and loving to strangers, particularly outcasts. 2) Be like Jesus by making a proactive effort to be vulnerable in having deep loving relationships within your community, since the best kind of love knows all of someone’s flaws yet continues to love. The strongest argument you can make in favor of Christianity is by acting more like Jesus and by teaching others how to act more like Jesus. While the failures of Christian communities can be a very strong argument against Christianity, I think Christian community has the potential to be the strongest argument in favor of Jesus.
If you’re not Christian, then my only suggestion is: Seek God, and don’t let anyone or any of this get in your way. By “God,” I mean the supreme or ultimate reality, not with any narrow definition. Instead, you should figure out that definition. What is God? And can you experience God?
1 Mark 16:11, Luke 24:11(ESV)
2 Ephesians 1:14 (ESV)
3 John 14:26, 16:13 (ESV)
James Frederick graduated from UC Berkeley in 2014. He is currently a math teacher who simultaneously works as a lawmaker, cop, judge, governor, and entertainer for seventh graders.Tags: apologetics, church, college, community, love, philosophy, theodicy, UC Berkeley, university