Saturday, January 23, 2010

Why I Am a Christian (and You Should Be, Too), in 600 Words

by Roger Clegg

To begin with, it is foolish not to grapple with the question whether there is a God. On His existence hinges what sort of life you should lead. Not having an opinion about or having giving serious thought to quantum mechanics is one thing, but the answer to the God question makes a big difference to you personally.

It is true that, absent revelation, it is hard to know for sure whether God exists. But that doesn’t make the answer any less important. Saying you can’t know for sure who will make your best spouse is no reason not to take care in choosing.

Next, we do know two things about the God-existence question: (a) There are good arguments that there is a God, and (b) it is better to be wrong in believing than to be wrong in not believing.

On the first point, I won’t in these 600 words rehearse the various cosmological (Kalam, Thomist, Leibnizian, etc.), scientific evidentiary, design, moral, and other arguments. Suffice it to say that none of these arguments is silly, and that even an honest atheist has to admit that he cannot know for sure that God does not exist.

The second point is, of course, famous as “Pascal’s Wager. It’s quite straightforward. If there is a God, then there is a huge advantage in believing in Him and living one’s life accordingly, versus not doing so. If it turns out there is no God, then the (much smaller) consequences in this life are all that matter, and indeed it is not at all clear that one has lost anything by believing. Therefore, a rational person should believe, live one’s life accordingly, and cultivate one’s faith.

But how do we know which God to believe in, and how do we know what He wants us to do?

The arguments so far hinge on God wanting people to believe in Him and behave in a certain way; if God doesn’t care, then there’s no point in believing in that God. The most plausible candidate for the kind of God I’m talking about is not Zeus, Ra, or Vishnu, but the monotheistic God that Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe in.

In choosing among these three religions, you must ask whether you believe the evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. If you do, then you are not a Jew or a Muslim. If you don’t, then you have to ask whether you think Mohammed was a true prophet or not. Myself, I believe the evidence that Something Happened in Palestine around A.D. 33, along the lines described in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is, conversely, harder to believe that the Gospels are all simply made up.

Finally, how do we know what God wants us to do? One can certainly use tradition and logic and deduction. But ultimately one would be very interested in hearing what God Himself has to say on the matter. For that, the New Testament (and the Old, since Jesus endorsed it) is obviously the key text. Interpreting it is not always easy, and perhaps it is not the perfectly transparent text we would like. But you would not throw away the fragment of a treasure map because it wasn’t perfect.

Is all this too cold-blooded and calculating for a Christian? Well, my aim is to persuade nonbelievers, and the fact is that you can’t persuade most nonbelievers except by appealing to their self-interest. Once they believe, then they can begin shedding the cold-bloodedness, as Someone who shed His own blood for mankind taught us to do.


Michael Lantz said...

I agree with everything that you say.The bible is the infallable word of God.He has no beginning and no ending,he is an infinate God.As my pastor says"He is the author of the Old and New Testament".The early Church Father's and the Reformers believed that the bible was the infallable word of God

eDITORcHRIS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Salt said...

You almost said word for word what I tell people people.

I believe in God, the salvation Jesus Christ has given me, the final judgement and life in heaven/hell after death just like my 6 year old believes me right now - with childlike faith. I dont try to 'figure' out things. I just believe.

Now, even if I didn't believe like this, I would still choose God just becos I would rather not die and find out I was wrong not to have believed. I would have lived a miserable life here only to wake up in hell. That's double punishment.

So even if, just for the sake of it, none of it is real, as a Christian, my life would be as rewarding as it could be. I would have lived a life of love and had help in my time of need. So if its just dust to dust, I still have nothing lost.....

I may be too simplistic or babyish but this is how I believe. Thanks for this!


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Billy Atwell said...

Most of this post was pretty good. But, I must say, the last paragraph was totally off...assuming I'm reading it correctly.

You said that your first goal is to persuade nonbelievers. And by doing that, you appeal to their self-interest.

Your first goal SHOULD be to proclaim trust, not persuade. Winning arguments is not what this is all about. Jesus understood that not everyone will believe and the truth that He Is would turn some people away, but He didn't teach something different just to bring them in.

You preach a false Gospel whenever you appeal to something other than the heart of the Gospel. They should come to the truth of the Gospel BECAUSE of the truth, not in spite of it.

I wrote about this issue here:

You really need to rethink the ending of this post, because we are not here just to bankroll's about building disciples.

Billy Atwell said...

I mistyped: Your first goal should be to proclaim truth (not trust)

mtucke03 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Allan Mcougall said...

The author and perfecter of the faith may mean that Jesus walked the way of faith first and brought it to completion or it may mean that he originated his people’s faith and will bring it to its perfection. Both ideas may be involved, but since it is not easy to think of the faith by which Jesus lived as essentially the same as our own, the emphasis seems to fall on what he does in his followers!

Anonymous said...

Pascal's wager does not take one thing into account -- it claims that you have nothing to lose for believing in God. Well, you do -- if you believe in God then you lose freewill, you force yourself into brainwashing yourself into believing something, and at the same time force yourself into not perceiving reality as it really is -- in all its beauty. If it is true that you only have one shot at life, living a life of delusion would be a major loss.
The Atheist Perspective

Trazom said...

On the first point, I agree it is a reasonable question as to whether one should believe in the existence of a God or Gods, especially given the impact that those with such beliefs have on society.

However the typical apologist arguments quoted that there is a god or gods are fairly silly (see for a treatment of these arguments).

Personal revelation may be a valid reason to believe but it would be unreasonable to expect someone to take another person's personal experience as a reason to believe.

Finally, one may not be logically certain that a god does not exist (but such certainty is not a std one typically applies to knowledge outside of pure mathematics), but in common language one can be as certain (possibly more so) that the existence of a christian god as described in the bible is less likely than other mythological constructs that have less demanding abilities (fairies at the bottom of the garden for example).

I find such arguments as presented (Pascal, Cosmological, etc)somewhat disingenuous as most christians do not believe in their god for these reasons at all.

hanatwosshoes said...

wow, I really enjoyed reading this post. I have only recently turned to christianity and it has really helped me gain faith and hope. The question of is there a god is one I used to ask myself all the time but now I believe it is quite irrelevant. Christianity is all about faith and trust and even though we may have no evidence of a god we must trust in him that he does exist, if that makes sense. Believing in god has given me hope but not believing gives me nothing.

I have recently started a blog about christianity for teenagers called
I only have one post so far but am going to add more if you would like to visit it.

オテモヤン said...

性欲 said...

I like how you think. I know for me - it is real - I never feel worthy. But I suppose none of us are - that is the point. I feel haunted by Christ often and if I am willing to see and hear - he is there.

Rick Supplee said...

I agree better to believe and be wrong than not believe and be wrong. The stakes are too high and the story of Jesus too compelling to ignore. I just can't ignore his constant beckoning to me to respond.

H.T said...

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Mr Bruff said...

just to say, this is a great site - please take a look at mine too, where I study a chapter of the Bible every day :)

Kelly said...

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Blessings from England !


Anonymous said...

Praise the Lord Almighty. He is truly blessing my homeland, Africa, this day.

Carmel Elizabeth said...

Lovely post! I totally agree. I am a christian and a conservative, and I really think more people should be christian Although, i do have one comment (not about your post) being a christian does not mean your life will be easier; God will not fix the problem, He will help you through your trials. I found this poem by Mary Stevenson, and I thought you might want to read it. Here it is:

Footprints in the Sand

One night I had a dream.
I dreamed I was walking along the beach
with the Lord...

Across the sky flashed scenes from my life..
For each scene, I noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand,
one belonging to me, and the other to the Lord..

When the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along
the path of my life there was only
one set of footprints.

I also noticed that it happened
at the very lowest and saddest times in my life.
This really bothered me
and I questioned the Lord about it:

"Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you'd walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
trouble some times in my life
there is only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why
when I need you most you would leave me."

The Lord replied:
"My precious child, I love you and would
never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints, it was then
that I carried you."


Spread the word if God, and love Him with all your might.

God bless,

Covnitkepr1 said...

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Anonymous said...

Living in a state of delusion is a poor way to live a life...pascal's wager fails.

The Atheist Perspective

Billy Atwell said...

Atheist Perspective: Living in a state of helpless, and hopeless, skepticism is no way to live either.

Some atheists like Dawkins and the Wall Street Journal author that Chuck Colson mentions in his video commentary this week (Two-Minute Warning) are looking to aliens to explain human existence. This endless attempt to live without God no matter how insane the reasoning, is unscientific and hopeless.

Read more at: For the Greater Glory

JJ said...

Hebrews 13:16
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Luke 6:38
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Believe those words and head on over to Click on a link or two to help a fellow brother out so he can continue helping others.

Spread the word to other brothers and sisters.

JLJ said...

As Jesus said we must make disciples of all nations.

That's my goal.

Hebrews 13:16
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Luke 6:38
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Believe those words and head on over to Click on a link or two to help a fellow brother out so he can continue helping others.

Spread the word to other brothers and sisters.

Raithie said...

The Bible is contradictory with itself, and therefore not infallible. There are many inconsistencies within the Bible.

Check out my blog about atheism is you would like to read from an atheists perspective - it covers some of the inconsistencies and contradictory nature of both the Bible and God.

Raithie said...

Also - Pascals Wager?

That's essentially claiming that you're only a Christian because you fear Hell and selfishly want a place in Heaven. It's not a "rational" answer, but a selfish one.
Also - you do lose something. You live your life thinking about death and waste it in activites such as prayer and mass, when you could spend it enjoying your life or helping others.

"Two hands do more than a thousand clasped in prayer."

Also - I'm curious as to what the evidence for the gospels are. They were written 2000 years ago (years after the death of Jesus) by primitive and violent men. If the Bible was written from divine inspiration - it would not condone slavery or contain so many inconsistencies and even contradictions. The Bible orders you to kill homosexuals, liars, witches and people who work on the sabbath day.

So why does the Bible contain such violent and immoral messages? Because the Bible reflects the social context of the time and hence is not infallible or even divine.

Tequilamockingbird said...

I could never understand the idea of believing in God, "Just in Case"

Isn't it interesting that someone who only half believe in God wants you to at least half believe in God? Consider if you will that a person who is a boldly semi-religious follower who is a half in the pool and half out of the pool wants you to jump into the pool ahead of him. Just in case.

Just in case of what? Just in case there is a shark in there so he will not get bitten? Just in case there is not a God he will not be alone in believing a false line of the religious literary work written thousands of years ago and rewritten every 50 years sense?

When we to listen

Jevig said...

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Anonymous said...

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I invite you to visit this blog and express your opinions


Anonymous said...

Great Blog, I hope you enjoy this poem I wrote called

"My Royal Family"

With your word you have set me free,
Ignited my spirit, like you, I strive to be.
Free! no ties , no lies, binding me.
By your mercy, your grace, at last I can see.

Your yoke hangs gently around my neck,
easy and light, just like you had said.
If not by you, then who? This I can not fathom,
I belong to you, this is not random.

By choice?... My choice?... How can this be?
Wasn't it He, who chose to save me.

Mercy and grace, given abundantly.
Eternally grateful for adopting me.

From that day forward, I awake Free.
No longer enslaved by powers other than thee.

Royal garments, I now own.
By my Father Given , who covers skin and bone.

I Pick up My Scepter! On goes my Royal Robe!
My Fathers the king, I now sit by His throne.

First born yes! That is me,
First born of His Royal family.
By: Giovanni

Molly B said...

This is a great post. God is so amazing.

Check out my blog.

thereisnome said...

This is truly awesome. Its exactly what I feel (and often times cant put into words haha)

You are an inspiratin :)

check out my blog? Not quite as far along as yours but God and I are building it together!

thanks and God Bless!

Anonymous said...

I think God introduces Himself to everyone and there’s few people who are willing to say "hello" in return. The ability to have courage to say 'hi' begins with a seed. Take a look at a free sample reading of ‘Veil of Consciousness’ on Wherever those seeds come from, it’s good to encourage strength in others to ask “Is that you, God?”.

Jaz said...

Thanks for the nice article

God Bless you!!

Crystal Marie said...

Why you should be more than a Christian... why you should be a liberal Christian!

Rick said...

It is the anonymous atheist that is living a life of delusion. He/she has ignore the obvious evidence that there is a God. My life is better, and freer, having believed.

mencari kebenaran said...

1 would like to ask you baby..where is the story of jesus when he was at thirteen tiil twentynine years old
in bible??

and the second is when the first time jesus was potreted?
and who was his photograper?
what kind of brand of camera was used?

the third is.. is jesus the GOD OR human being?

1 need your answer as fast as possible..ok

謝雅柏 said...

IS VERY GOOD..............................

Christian Novels said...

Great stuff from you, man. Ive read your stuff before and youre just too awesome. I love what youve got here, love what youre saying and the way you say it. You make it entertaining and you still manage to keep it smart. I cant wait to read more from you. This is really a great blog.

Anonymous said...

What an absolute load of shit.

Covnitkepr1 said...

Just checking back for any new posts.

Solid Rock or Sinking Sand said...

I really enjoyed reading the posts on your blog. I would like to invite you to come on over to my blog and check it out. God bless, Lloyd

Sungyak said...

thanks for the post. though i appreciate your detailed outlines of philosophical and historical evidences, i wonder whether these had any effect at the time you actually came to believe in Christ. or did these merely serve to bolster your faith thereafter?

Toyin O. said...

Well said.

Lee said...

Interesting take. Looking to read more of what you have to say.

Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ is the best to live for! Yay! I try and write encouraging words

Benjamin said...

Jesus is the way, truth and life!

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God bless you... Hope to read more of your post

S.T.O.M.P. said...

you are such a great inspiration!!!Feed people with the word and surely they will grow!!!

Were actually having a 2 night conference at my church april 1 and 2 for college highschool and middle school.Its called S.T.O.M.P.(spiritual transformation of many people) if your in va beach and want to check it out Please come by

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who'sthatlady? said...

I am a Christian because after searching and searching for something to fill the void in my heart I ended right back where I the cross. Somehow after leaving my first love and looking for love "in all the wrong places" I was led right back to Jesus and this time with everything in me I knew it was truth. That Jesus died to take away sin and that he rose in victory and I could be saved through Jesus. I am a Christian because everything in me testifies that Jesus is the Christ.

Reality said...

The bible is the love letter from our loving God! God bless! : )

Anonymous said...


Slave of Jesus said...

When we give much importance to our 'body language positions' before men, how much care should we take regarding our 'Spiritual Body Language'...!

Anonymous said...

One must Read Thomas Aquinas's Reasoning on the existence of God.
Also one may go through this blog

Polly and Meek said...

Amen my friend! Luckily I was raised in a Christian family and never wondered if God existed or not. I credit my very strong Grandmother and Great-Auntie for keeping me in church for every function and praying for and with me throughout my childhood and adult years. Now I want my little one to know that God is real and He is there to guide and protect us. There is great peace in knowing that He is there for me and REAL!

Its funny I've always told people who do not believe that I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die and find out there is not, than to live like there is no God and die and find out there is.


Rich said...

This is the best argument I have ever heard for believing in God:
"it is better to be wrong in believing than to be wrong in not believing."
I have just added you to the blogspot directory

JosH said...

its intresting ill give you that.


Dr. Jeff Baxter said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

pascal's wager argument, I think we need more than that to believe in God. Yes a possible eternity might have infinite wealth, but there are also an infinite amount of possible requirements. Why base your life on what you cannot know. No need to base a good portion of your life and free will on a roulette wheel with an infinite amount of numbers. MIght as well carry a sword around all the time with the hope that you will go to valhalla

Nicole said...

I don't know how people can live without God! The few years I was without Him were the worst years of my life. Nothing made sense.

Hieu said...

Even though we gave birth to our children, we would rather they "do good for goodness sake," rather than "do good so they can have our inheritance." If there's a God, s/he should be a better "person" than us lol -Hieu

Agnostic's perspective said...

I’ve got no problem with the “Why I’m a Christian” part—I admire the beauty and wonder in Christianity. It’s the “Why you should be too” part that’s off-putting, and the subtle sense of superiority in the statement “…you can’t persuade most nonbelievers except by appealing to their self-interest. Once they believe, then they can begin shedding the cold-bloodedness…”

It’s tough to persuade someone when you think they’re inherently bad (self-interested, cold-blooded) because they don’t believe as you do. This comes across as smug yet insecure—you don’t feel comfortable in your belief unless everyone else thinks just like you. This isn’t going to persuade anyone who doesn’t have an inferiority complex.

My grandmother was one of the best Christians I’ve ever known. She told me that if I showed kindness to God’s creatures I was doing His work whether or not I called myself a Christian and went to church. Her love and acceptance of me was not predicated on my belief system, and she never once presumed to tell me what I should believe in my heart of hearts, because she recognized intuitively that forcing your beliefs on others is spiritual bullying.

Agnostic's perspective said...

Regarding the idea that it’s better to believe in God and be wrong than not believe in Him and be wrong: That’s merely your personal opinion. It’s not mine. My opinion is that it’s better to keep an open mind and take with a grain of salt anything that other humans tell me—never having been contacted by God Himself, I only have the word of other humans that God wrote the Bible, and history teaches us that humans are, well, only human. You may see this as self-interested and cold-blooded, but some could also say that your faith is self-interested, since you hope for an eternal reward for your devotion, as well as cold-blooded, with the exclusionary tendencies toward those who don’t believe as you do—that particular knife cuts both ways, which is why it’s good to leave out the insults and try to see beyond assumptions into what’s really in a person’s heart.

A note to Nicole—just because you were lost without God doesn’t mean everyone is. Your own experience is your own experience. I'm happy for you that religion has given you meaning and beauty. Keeping an open mind to the goodness to be found in many different kinds of beliefs and respecting the rights of the others to believe as they do has given me meaning and beauty.

Hieu said...

I appreciate Agnostic's perspective. However, this is a Christian blog and people have already made up their minds. So, it's difficult to ask people to keep an open mind. I am not putting down religions, but it reminds me of following sports teams. Some people live and die with their teams. And it's actually fun being a sports fan. There's a feeling of camaraderie, of belonging. Other Giants fans like you "unconditionally" just because you're a Giants fan. There's "purpose" in your life. There's also a down side. You don't like the Dodgers or their fans. You can even get killed by the other team's fans. Of course, by not being a fan, you don't get all this excitement, bonding etc... Well, actually you can become a kayaker and not have to hate or save the Dodgers or Giants fans. LOL

Julien said...

Dear Ms.Sonya Triggs-Wharton, guiding people through a problem does not work if you are using a false pretense, religion to teach them on how to get out of their problems. Examine religion first, read about why science is the answer on our blog please and answer there.

John Newman said...

This argument is very flawed. If I were to tell you that you SHOULD believe in a certain god, like the Hindu god Krishna, you wouldn't just be able to believe in his existence no matter how much you wanted to unless you actually do believe in him. One's belief in anything in not simply created, it is not up to the individual themselves; it is simply up to the way their brain thinks, and nobody can tell their brain to think or believe something, because it is not the nature of the brain.

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bhashkar_suainlogistic said...

Great post, I conceive people should larn a lot from this blog its rattling user pleasant.

tgates said...

1. have you ever read the bible.
2. your claims are completely wrong about the bible telling us to kill homosexuals, and liars etc. it actually commands us to LOVE.
3. archeological finds have time and again proven many parts of the bible to be true.
4. next time please know more about what you are rejecting as stupid

Alfred Morris said...

I think real Christians should invite questioning, and you're absolutely right to say that we shouldn't exempt ourselves from that! If that is the new Atheism, then I welcome it, provided that it's a two-way dialogue, and not just a load of one-sided ranting, which is what you appear to be indulging in here.