Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Four Commonly Asked Questions by Postmoderns

I originally prepared this for school based on different conversations I've had with postmoderns. I think these are fairly typical questions people with a postmodern mindset (including myself) like to ask about life, spirituality, and God. I hope these answers can help you a little bit personally, as well as maybe being able to help you articulate how to answer these questions when they are brought up. These are just suggestions, obviously, but I do think they can simply and adequately answer these questions. I hope these answers can help you as these questions come up in everyday conversation as you discuss spirituality with people.

1. Is there really such a thing as “truth”? As long as it works for you, what does it matter?

Many people believe that the idea that there can only be one way to God is intolerant.

However, we don’t apply that same logic with other facts of life. In mathematics, schools everywhere teach that 2 + 2 = 4. But what if there was a kid in a school that thought 2 + 2 = 6? What if he believed that, “well that kind of ‘truth’ may work for you but it just doesn’t for me”. He would fail his class, right? Why? Because we know for a fact that two plus two does in fact equal four.

What about gravity? If I decided, “You know, the law of gravity is just too rigid for me. I don’t think I believe in it anymore”. So, I decided to stand on the top of the Empire State Building and jump off. What will happen? I will very likely fall to my death. Why? Because the law of gravity is bigger than my own private opinion about it. It really doesn’t matter what I think, because truth is not determined by my own thoughts about it.

We know that the law of gravity and mathematics are not determined by us. We just have to do our best to understand them. Yet, when we are talking about a higher power we are talking about someone who created the Earth, people, as well as the laws of gravity and mathematics and all of that. If we can’t make something true on this Earth by our own private opinions, how can we do so about something that created the Earth? Either God exists or He does not, but my opinion about Him cannot change Him one way or the other, just as it cannot change laws of gravity or mathematics.

2. I like spirituality, but how do I know there is a God?

Well, there are many ways God has revealed Himself to people. One of those ways is that as humans we all have some idea that there’s such a thing as right and wrong.

All humans expect other humans to live by a certain standard. For example, say I’m your friend. If I leaned over and punched you right in the mouth you’d be pretty upset with me. Why? You’d be upset because I’m your friend, and friends don’t hit each other. But where did that idea come from?

We know as people that some things are evil, even if the culture we’re in tells us otherwise. For example, if a culture determines morality, we had no right to be angry with the Nazis. They were doing what was right in their own culture. But rather we held them to a standard: that they should not be allowed to torture and slaughter other people. Why? They should know it is wrong as people.

Think about your interactions with people day to day. Most of the time it doesn’t even matter what a person actually does, it’s their intentions that bother us. If someone bumps you on accident when you’re walking and knocks you down, though you’re upset you’ll likely forgive them. But if someone tries to knock you down but misses, though you don’t receive any physical damage you’ll probably be pretty angry. Why? He intentionally went against the standard you expected him to go by as a person.

Christians call this the “conscience”. We believe, based on Scripture, that God gave us this idea of right and wrong to make us question where it came from. We certainly didn’t put it there, yet we were born with it. Simply by the fact that we call some things “good” and some “evil” say that we think some things are in their nature bad and some are good. The God who put this idea in our heads must be “good”. If He were bad, we’d call bad “good” instead. And here’s where it matters: A “good” God would have to reveal Himself to people. And He would have to show us how to know Him and live rightly in this life. We Christians believe God did show Himself, and in fact He came to Earth as a person.

In summary, we all know there’s a right and wrong. If it didn’t come from us, it had to come from a higher power. And this higher power wants us to know Him, otherwise He wouldn’t have put that desire within people. All of this should point us to God.

3. What’s the difference between Christianity and all the others (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism)? Don’t they all teach not to murder or lie, and to be kind to people?

Yes, basically. As I said before, we all have a conscience built in us by God. This means that people in history who were very aware of their consciences would arrive at the same conclusions. Great philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates never taught anything about right and wrong that was anything you’d call a real difference from what Jesus taught. This is because God placed the idea of morality within all of us. Muslims and Hindus both teach we should basically treat people well, not lie, and help people when we can.

But, there is a big difference in all these religions and it all has to do with what happens when we die. Some believe in an afterlife and some don’t. Some agree or disagree about what God is like. These may seem like small matters, but they’re not. If morality is just a way to be happy on this life, then none of this matters anyway. If there is no afterlife, then the idea that “whatever works for you is truth” makes complete sense. But deep down all humans know we weren’t born just to die. We were born to last forever. God didn’t go through all the trouble of making this world and people just for us to last 70 years or so and that be the end of it. If that’s the case then life has no real meaning. It’s here and gone, and whatever happens… happens.

But there is an afterlife with God. Those who believe in this afterlife, with the exception of Christians, believe you basically get there by how well you did in this life. Islam basically teaches that at the end of life there are scales. On one side is your good works, and on the other are your bad. If you did more good than bad, you go to Heaven. If you did more bad than good, you don’t. All other religions teach basically the same thing.

But Christianity is about something completely different. In the Bible God teaches that no person can be good enough on his own. This means that we could never do enough good things to earn our way to Heaven. No other “religion” teaches this.

The Bible is about Jesus. Jesus is God’s own Son. This means that God placed Himself inside of a fleshly person. He did this so He could example how to live this life perfectly. Then, in the end, He was tortured and killed. This was the great sacrifice for all people. Because we’ve all done bad things, we need a perfect sacrifice to pay for those wrongdoings. Jesus did that.

As Christians we don’t believe we’re better than anyone else. But we do believe that Jesus was the only perfect person, and by His death we can be made good enough. In the end what we physically did won’t be what mattered. It will be a matter of who we trusted. Did we trust in Jesus’ sacrifice and way of life, or did we trust in something else?

As you can see, Christianity is completely different than any other religion out there. It’s not so much about beliefs as it is about a way of life based on trust that God alone can make us good enough to go to Heaven because of Jesus. Other religions teach you get to Heaven based on your actions, Christianity teaches you get there by trust in Jesus.

4. Say I did want to consider Christianity. What is Christianity put into really simple terms?

The Bible teaches that God is completely good, and that He made everything that exists. He made people so we could enjoy an intimate relationship with Him. But the first man, Adam, decided to break that relationship with God. God told him not to eat a piece of fruit, but Adam decided not to trust God. When he did that, he sinned. We all do that every day. When we lie, cheat, steal, hurt other people, or act selfishly we’re basically telling God that we trust our way of life more than we do His. This is why the world is full of wars, evil, famines, diseases and anything bad. The world has gone bad because people decided to trust themselves rather than their Creator.

All people who do this, like you and me, deserve to be punished forever when we die. But God loves us. So He came as a person, Jesus, to show us how to live perfectly, and then He paid our price of punishment by being tortured and killed on the cross – for all people everywhere. If we choose to believe in that sacrifice we can be saved from punishment. But belief really just means “trust”.

We have to trust that Jesus paid the price of sin for us, and that God’s way of life is better than our own. That means we have to choose to try and give our lives over to God and trust Him even when His way doesn’t make sense to us.

The point of life is God. If we choose to place our trust in Jesus, we can live life to the fullest extent possible. We will have an intimate relationship with the Creator of all things who loves us personally. Not only that, but we will get to live forever with God because we chose to trust Him. This is Christianity in a nutshell, and if you’d like to study with me about how to actually become a Christian I’d love to look in the Bible with you and see how to do that.