What Would Convince Me Christianity is True?

I have been asked what would convince me Christianity is true. Let me answer this question.

In the first place, the question is akin to asking what it would take to believe that any cult leader’s claim is true. There is a man in Texas who claims to be Jesus. What would it take you to believe that he’s Jesus? Sound ridiculous, right? That may not exactly be on a par with the probability of the resurrection of Jesus, but such a claim is simply unbelievable to every thinking person, correct? There are other types of questions that are similar in kind. What would it take to convince you that the Holocaust never happened? What would it take to convince you that aliens built the pyramids? What would it take to convince you that Islam, Buddhism, or Satanism is true? Quite a bit, right? That’s because these beliefs are outside of that which we consider real possibilities. I could just as easily ask Christians what it would take to convince them that atheism is true. Given the Christian responses I see at DC, I dare say probably nothing would convince them otherwise. Atheism is outside of that which Christians consider real possibilities. It would take a great deal to change our minds across this great debate, no matter what side we are on. Although, since people convert and deconvert to and away from Christianity there are circumstances and reasons for changing one’s mind. Here at DC we have changed our minds, and we offer reasons why.

In the second place, Christianity would have to be revised for me to believe that Jesus arose from the dead, since if Jesus arose from the dead then the whole Bible is probably true as well. But many Biblical beliefs are outside of that which I consider real possibilities for the many reasons I offer on this Blog. I see no reason why a triune eternal God is a solution to any of our questions. I see no reason why God should test Adam & Eve, or punish them and their children and their children’s children with such horrific consequences for such a mistake. I see no good reason for the animal pain caused by the law of predation in the natural world if a good God exists, either. Nor do I see why God should send a flood to kill practically all human beings. I can no longer believe in the bloodthirsty God of the Bible. He’s a barbaric God. I no longer see the Bible as an inspired book since it contains absurdities and contradictions, being as it were, written by an ancient superstitious people before the rise of modern science. I see absolutely no way to understand what it means to say Jesus is “God in the flesh”, nor how his death on the cross does anything for us, nor where the human side of the incarnation in Jesus is right now. I see no intelligent reason why God revealed himself exclusively in the ancient superstitious past, since it was an age of tall tales among the masses at a time when they didn’t understand nature through the laws of physics. I see no reason why this God cares about what we believe, either, since people have honest and sincere disagreements on everything from politics to which diet helps us lose the most weight.

[About this someone asked me: "John, you say we must follow the evidence, but haven't you said elsewhere that even if you were to admit that Christianity were proved to your satisfaction that you would not follow it? Could you explain how that is following the evidence." Gladly. The belief system that the initial evidence supports is to be considered part of the evidence itself, and as such, it should be included when examining the whole case. If, for instance, the evidence supported accepting militant Islam, where I am called upon to kill people who don't believe, then I must make a choice between the initial evidence that led me to believe and that belief system itself. And such a belief system, even if the evidence initially supported it, renders that evidence null and void. I would have to conclude that I misjudged the initial evidence, or that I'm being misled, or something else. In other words, a rejection of such a belief system like militant Islam trumps the evidence, for I cannot conceive of believing it unless the evidence is completely overwhelming, and there is no such thing as overwhelming evidence when it comes to these issues].

But let’s say the Christian faith is true and Jesus did arise from the dead. Let’s say that even though Christianity must punt to mystery and retreat into the realm of mere possibilities to explain itself that it is still true, contrary to what my (God given?) mind leads me to believe. Then what would it take to convince me?

I would need sufficient reasons to overcome my objections, and I would need sufficient evidence to lead me to believe. By “sufficient” here, I mean reasons and evidence that would overcome my skepticism. I am predisposed to reject the Christian faith and the resurrection of Jesus (just as Christians are predisposed to reject atheism). So I need sufficient reasons and evidence to overcome my skeptical predisposition.

When it comes to sufficient reasons, I need to be able to understand more of the mysteries of Christianity in order to believe it. If everything about Christianity makes rational sense to an omniscient God, then God could’ve created human beings with more intelligence so that the problems of Christianity are much more intellectually solvable than they are. I would need to have a better way of understanding such things as the trinity, the incarnation, the atonement, and why a good God allows so much intense suffering even to the point of casting human beings into hell.

Short of God creating us with more intelligence to understand his “mysteries,” God could’ve explained his ways to us. He could’ve written the “mother of all philosophical papers” by answering such problems as, “why there is something rather than nothing at all?”, why people deserve to end up in hell, and questions about the atonement, the trinity, divine simplicity, the incarnation, the relationship of free-will and foreknowledge, and how it’s possible for a spiritual being to interact with a material world. He could’ve explained why there is so much intense suffering in this world if he exists. He could’ve explained why he remains hidden and yet condemns us for not finding him in this life. He could’ve helped us understand how it’s possible to want all people to be saved and yet not help people come to a saving knowledge. Christians born into their faith inside an already Christian culture may claim God has explained the things necessary, but for most people in the world he didn’t explain enough. Because he has not done enough to help us understand these things, he is partially to blame for those who do not believe, especially if he knew in advance that people wouldn’t believe unless he had done so.

Short of helping us to understand these “mysteries,” the only thing left is to give us more evidence to believe, and less evidence to disbelieve. Let me offer some examples of what I mean.

Scientific evidence. God could’ve made this universe and the creatures on earth absolutely unexplainable by science, especially since science is the major obstacle for many to believe. He could’ve created us in a universe that couldn’t be even remotely figured out by science. That is to say, there would be no evidence leading scientists to accept a big bang, nor would there be any evidence for the way galaxies, solar systems, or planets themselves form naturalistically. If God is truly omnipotent he could’ve created the universe instantaneously by fiat, and placed planets haphazardly around the sun, some revolving counter-clockwise and in haphazard orbits. The galaxies themselves, if he created any in the first place, would have no consistent pattern of formation at all. Then when it came to creatures on earth God could’ve created them without any connection whatsoever to each other. Each species would be so distinct from each other that no one could ever conclude natural selection was the process by which they have arisen. There would be no hierarchy of the species in gradual increments. There would be no rock formations that showed this evolutionary process because it wouldn’t exist in the first place. Human beings would be seen as absolutely special and distinct from the rest of the creatures on earth such that no scientist could ever conclude they evolved from the lower primates. There would be no evidence of unintelligent design, since the many signs of unintelligent design cancel out the design argument for the existence of God. God didn’t even have to create us with brains, if he created us with minds. The existence of this kind of universe and the creatures in it could never be explained by science apart from the existence of God.

Biblical Evidence. Someone could’ve made a monument to Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden that still exists and is scientifically dated to the dawn of time. There would be overwhelming evidence for a universal flood covering "all" mountains. Noah’s ark would be found exactly where the Bible says, and it would be exactly as described in the Bible. The location of Lot’s wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt, would still be miraculously preserved and known by scientific testing to have traces of human DNA in it. There would be non-controversial evidence that the Israelites lived as slaves in Egypt for four hundred years, conclusive evidence that they wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and convincing evidence that they conquered the land of Canaan exactly as the Bible depicts. But there is none. I could go on and on, but you get the point. That is, there would be evidence of miracles, and not just that the particular places and people described in the Bible existed. Plus, there would be no Bible difficulties such that a 450 page book needed to be written explaining them away, as Gleason Archer did.

Prophetic Evidence. God could’ve predicted any number of natural disasters (if he didn’t have the power to create a better world which lacked them). He could’ve predicted when Mt. St. Helens would erupt, or when the Indonesian tsunami or hurricane Katrina would destroy so much. It would save lives and confirm he is God. Then too, he could’ve predicted the rise of the internet, or the inventions of the incandescent light bulb, Television, or the atomic bomb, and he could do it using non-ambiguous language that would be seen by all as a prophectic fulfillment. God could’ve predicted several things that would take place in each generation in each region of the earth, so that each generation and each region of the earth would have confirmation that he exists through prophecy. God could've told people about the vastness and the complexity of the universe before humans would have been able to confirm it (if he didn’t create it haphazardly as I suggested earlier). He could have predicted the discovery of penicillin, which has saved so many lives, and if predicted it would have speeded up its discovery.

Present Day Evidence. God could visit us in every age, and do the same miracles he purportedly did in Jesus. If this causes people to want to kill him all over again and he doesn’t need to die again, he could just vanish. Also, Christians would be overwhelmingly better people by far. And God would answer their prayers in such distinctive ways that even those who don’t believe would seek out a Christian to pray for them and their illness or problem. Scientific studies done on prayer would meet with overwhelming confirmation. We wouldn’t see such religious diversity which is divided up over the world into distinct geographical locations and adopted based upon when and where we were born.

Evidence specific to the resurrection. There would be clear and specific prophecies about the virgin birth, life, nature, mission, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Jesus in the Old Testament that could not be denied by even the most hardened skeptic. As it is there is no Old Testament prophecy that is to be considered a true prophecy that points to any of these things in any non-ambiguous way. Many professed Christian scholars think these Old Testament prophecies do not predict anything specific about Jesus and/or do not point specifically to him. The Gospel accounts of the resurrection would all be the same, showing no evidence of growing incrementally over the years by superstitious people. The Gospels could've been written at about the same time months after Jesus arose from the dead. And there would be no implausibilites in these stories about women not telling others, or that the soldiers who supposedly guarded the tomb knew that Jesus arose even though they were asleep (how is that really possible?). Herod and Pilate would've converted because they concluded from the evidence that Jesus arose from the grave. Setting aside their respective thrones, both Herod and Pilate would've become missionaries, or declare Christianity the new religion of their territories. Such evidence like a Turin Shroud would be found which could be scientifically shown to be from Jerusalem at that time containing an image that could not be explained away except that a crucified man had come back to life. But the evidence for it doesn't exist.

Now, I wouldn’t require all of this to believe. I cannot say how much of this I might need to believe. But I certainly need some of it. If it were offered, I'd believe. However, if I was convinced Christianity is true and Jesus arose from the grave, and if I must believe in such a barbaric God, I would believe, yes, but I could still not worship such a barbaric God. I would fear such a Supreme Being, since he has such great power, but I'd still view him as a thug, a despicable tyrant, a devil in disguise; unless Christianity was revised.