Monday, June 13, 2011

Two Kinds of Testimonies

Once you have established that one should investigate religion and not just dismiss it then the next question is how to go about doing that? There are many different angles one can take. As one raised in a protestant faith the first thing I really examined was the testimony of Christians I encountered. There were basically two kinds of testimony that impressed me.

The first one was the rational skeptic. CS Lewis and GK Chesterton are good examples of this but there are many more.  Basically you are impressed with a person's ability to find holes in people's philosophies. They point out many weaknesses in thinking you are familiar with. Weaknesses you had either missed or were not able to pinpoint exactly. They gain credibility in your mind as a strong critic. But these same people accept Christianity. Many of them were atheists at some point and thought there way into Christianity as skeptics. Those guys impressed me. I needed to know that Christianity was being scrutinized in some serious way and standing up to it. I could not honestly say I was doing that. People did leave the faith saying they were too rational to take Christianity seriously. I never heard them give an argument that made sense to me or to the Christians I knew. But the fact that we didn't see any impressive argument was dismissed as bias. Could we all be biased? These testimonies were the best examples of Christian thinkers who could not be dismissed as biased.

The other thing that impressed me was the arguments themselves. Not to get into details here but they seemed very strong. It really pointed out the fact that the supposedly super-rational anti-Christian side had not come up with arguments nearly as strong. What was more they didn't respond to the arguments Christians were making. So we had one side feeling smug about claiming that logic and reason were on their side but they were not the ones making good arguments and responding to objections. They were the ones doing a lot of table pounding and ignoring what the best thinkers on the other side were actually saying.

The second type of testimony that made a difference to my faith was the prodigal son type of story. It made sense to me to believe Jesus was real if He was changing lives in a dramatic way. Logically how much did it really prove? Could it be just another instance of the power of positive thinking? Some of it could be chalked up to showing Christianity contains some real wisdom. Sobriety is better than drunkenness. Chastity is better than promiscuity. But those things could be true without God being real. Still living the Christian life was seen by many as much more satisfying than the secular alternative. Is that enough? Not really. But it is good to know.

Still it was deeper. Calvin talked about a spiritual sense we have. Like smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing tell us about the physical world he thought we had some sense that told us about the spiritual world. I got that sense from these people. They didn't just have measurable changes in their lives but they experienced God. They knew He was real. They didn't wonder if religion was just a new trick for changing their behavior. Like a nicotine patch helps you quit smoking. They knew there was a spiritual encounter that was central to their story. They had fallen in love with Jesus. At the end of the day the most powerful arguments for or against Christianity are Christians.

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