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One Reason Why Christianity is Unique Among World Religions

One Reason Why Christianity is Unique Among World Religions

by Mike Duran · 14 comments

Christianity, it seems to me, stands apart from all other religions in the scope of evidence there is to support it. This doesn’t mean Christianity is infallible and absolutely compelling. In fact, it is Christianity’s emphasis upon subjective and objective evidences that make it both open to criticism and, ultimately, satisfying.

I came to this realization after a rather torturous journey through various Eastern religions. While I enjoyed texts like the Bhagavad Gita and Autobiography of a Yogi, it was entirely their lack of historical, external, rational grounding that left me unsatisfied. So when Yogananda spoke of things like gurus levitating or transporting, it rang hollow. There just wasn’t enough actual evidence for it.

So pursuing enlightenment (or detachment) — an entirely subjective experience — was the only real anchor I ever had. But there was nothing other than me to anchor in. It seemed flimsy.

When I began to research Christianity again, this balance between subjective and objective evidence really struck me. Yes, Christianity, like other religions, emphasizes a subjective, internal component. However, Christianity, unlike other religions, offers a girth of external, objective evidences to validate itself.

So there is a great balance between

  • what happened historically and what’s happening now
  • what happened outside you and what’s happening inside you
  • what God said and what God’s saying
  • what the Bible demands of you and your response to it
  • being born and being born again

Or to put it another way, Christianity appeals to both meta-narratives and micro-narratives.

The objective, historical evidences for Christianity are really what sealed the deal for me. Things like proof for the historical physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the authenticity and reliability of Scripture seemed extremely persuasive. However, those external evidences (biblical meta-narrative) didn’t mean much until I had an internal experience, change of heart, revelation (personal micro-narrative).

Christianity, unlike other world religions, presents a significant, compelling balance between objective and subjective witnesses, reason and intuition, proofs and faith.

Now, some religions rely heavily on internal evidence for their validation. Mormons are a good example. If you ask a Mormon how they know Mormonism is true, they will often mention a “burning in the bosom” experience. Christians do the same thing when they say, “I believe Christianity is true because I know it in my heart, I’ve changed, and God spoke to me.” The problem with this is obvious: Any beliefs can be justified if they don’t require external validation.

On the other hand are religions that rely heavily on external evidence, tradition, or custom. There is no revelation required, just compliance; a shell of ritual devoid of transformation. But when you ask for validation, persuasion is lacking. So an angel spoke to Mohammed or Joseph Smith. So Buddah was enlightened. So the Maharishi spoke to an ascended master a long, long time ago. The question is, How is Mohammed’s credibility as a prophet tested or Buddah’s status as an enlightened master validated?

Christianity does not suffer this problem nearly as much as other religions.

Of course, this does not mean that the objective, historical evidences for Christianity persuades everyone and can’t be challenged. As Pascal suggested, God provides us with enough evidence to believe, but not so much that we don’t need faith. Once again, it’s a balance between the internal and external. And this is one thing I find uniquely compelling about Christianity: It respects the fact that I am both a physical and a spiritual being, my head and my heart need engaged. Jesus Christ actually lived, performed miracles, and rose from the dead. But He still requires my faith and says I must be born again.

One final observation: We are in danger whenever we lose this balance and emphasize the subjective, experiential elements of Christianity over the objective, rational elements of Christianity. Or vice-versa. A religion that is built entirely upon a historical event but lacks transformative power is flawed. Conversely, a religion that is entirely about enlightenment without any grounding in reason or external evidences, is not worth believing

Your thoughts?

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Bobby September 14, 2012 at 8:37 AM

I spend a lot of time listening to atheists, so when I hear you talk about the historical evidence, I can hear Penn Jillete or Chris Hitchens or Ricky Gervais laughing out loud. Well, Hitchens probably would have mildly chuckled. If that. I seriously wonder if that man ever laughed at all…

You’re right though. There is historical evidence and it absolutely must be brought to the fore in a discussion as Christianity as a “one among many” religion. A book I recently conquered was NT Wright’s “The Resurrection of the Son of God,” or something like that. Geez…you don’t read that book, you beat it. Anyway, he provides painstaking evidence that if the resurrection of Christ wasn’t real, Christianity would have ceased to exist within years of the Apostles’ mission work and they themselves passed off as insane.

Your point about “just enough faith” and so on rings true as well. Non-believers exploit those little logic and historical “holes” for all they’re worth, and can make apologetics and defending the faith a challenging task.

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Mike Duran September 15, 2012 at 11:14 AM

While atheists may scoff at the historical evidences for Christianity, there’s a lot to scoff at. Most do not take the tact that Christ did not exist (some do). In other words, they accept that Jesus was a real historical figure who actually did and said something at a certain point in time and place on the map. So they don’t deny the historical evidences as much as they deny the implications and assertion put forth by Him and His followers.

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Jed September 14, 2012 at 12:01 PM

Great article, Mike!

Another observation in this vein that goes against your admonition in the final paragraph is that many Christian movements and denominations have stressed one almost to the exclusion of the other. For example, one denomination might be really rgid on doctrinal interpretation and leave almost no room for the working of the Holy Spirit. Another might push emotional/spiritual experience and be fairly inattentive to Biblical doctrine. These two groups (both in the wrong to some degree) then sit back and take pot shots at each other. Divided once again!

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Lyn Perry September 14, 2012 at 2:15 PM

I tried holding a similar conversation with some of my nonChristian SF/F friends and they gave me some push-back on my insistence that faith is “reasonable” – ie, there is a foundation of evidence on which my faith rests. Their point, in sum, was that faith was, by definition, “blind.” I attempted to explain the concept of “pistis” (trust due to trustworthiness) but it was a losing battle. I’ll be interested in the comments you get on this one.

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Jill September 14, 2012 at 4:35 PM

This idea of a micro and meta narrative is one I’ve been thinking about lately. I would add that there is also a macro narrative, but I’m not sure how you’re setting micro against meta. Meta is an abstract term that could be self-referential. I need to run….maybe you can explain how you’re using the term “meta”. I’d like to discuss this topic more.

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Lyn Perry September 15, 2012 at 9:25 AM

The way my profs (I just recently graduated…again!) spoke of meta-narrative is in the postmodern sense, in that there is no narrative that is “beyond” personal narratives. In other words, they posit that there is no over-arching story to tie our stories together. This is the current use of meta in a literary/academic setting, I believe. It also is self-referential in an educational/academic setting, like metacognition, the ability to think about thinking; but meta-narrative is probably what you mean by the term macro. FYI.

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Mike Duran September 15, 2012 at 11:22 AM

Yeah, I’m using that in the postmodern sense that Western culture has defined reality in terms of one big story or over-arching narrative. All Truth goes back to THIS or is the result of THAT. It’s Absolutist. That’s why some academics have described postmodernism as “incredulity toward metanarratives.” Thus, no single story (metanarrative) can possibly contain all stories (micro-narratives). It’s actually a fascinating discussion, I think.

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Jill September 15, 2012 at 1:26 PM

“Thus, no single story (metanarrative) can possibly contain all stories (micro-narratives). It’s actually a fascinating discussion, I think.” Yes, yes, yes! Archetypes resound w/ us because of our meta narratives. However, real people are more than archetypes. It is so interesting to contemplate how we all fit into God’s scheme. I’ve been mulling over a blog idea having to do w/ this for a while now.

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Mike Duran September 15, 2012 at 1:33 PM

This also applies to story-telling: Each character brings their own story ( a micro-narrative) into a larger story.

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Lelia Rose Foreman (@LeliaForeman) September 15, 2012 at 8:48 AM

Yes.

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Bob Avey September 15, 2012 at 3:40 PM

Great post, Mike. If you haven’t read “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel, you should.

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Mike Duran September 15, 2012 at 5:36 PM

Yeah, I did read that, Bob. Thanks for mentioning the book.

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Jim Hamlett September 15, 2012 at 6:09 PM

Well done, Mike. Are you familiar with Hugh Ross and the folks at reasons.org? Most are Christian scientists with specialties in astrophysics or biology. They do have a staff member who handles most of the theology/apologetics topics. They are a great source for external evidences that lead to “reasonable” faith. They are old earth guys, so that may upset some, but few can argue with their dedication to providing observable facts that enhance our faith. Worth a visit (reasons.org).

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Jessica Thomas September 17, 2012 at 8:30 AM

“We are in danger whenever we lose this balance and emphasize the subjective, experiential elements of Christianity over the objective, rational elements of Christianity. Or vice-versa. ”

Totally agree. I tend to judge the two extremes by my level of annoyance. Too much of either and I start to get grumpy. Which, I suppose means my comfort level is a bit left of center.

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