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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

“Why I am a Christian” (speech: Salt, Ellensburg Christian Missionary Alliance)

Salt, College age group
Christian Missionary Alliance, 10/15/98

I am a Christian first of all because Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners – of which I am a big one (1 Tim. 1:15). And from a human standpoint, I remain a Christian because only Biblical Christianity is true to what is. Let me briefly explain.

After being an unbeliever who was active in my church youth group while in high school here in Ellensburg, I made up my mind when I went away to college either, to be religious or not to be religious — but not to be a hypocrite. So, taking the easy pagan path, I forgot about God and church for years, and I didn’t question my anti-religious decision until my senior year at the University of Washington.

At a time when my fellow senior fraternity brothers were coasting to the end of their college career, I was having problems. I was having academic troubles, social troubles, and extra-curricular troubles — troubles that caused me to quit school.

So, I came back to Ellensburg and worked for my father for 7 weeks winter quarter of my senior year searching for some answers to questions like: “What do I want to be when I grow up?” “What kind of person do I want to be? What am I going to do after college?”

Well, of course I did not find the answers to these questions, so I went back to the UW Spring quarter, 1965, more frustrated, confused, and worried than ever, because I had tried what little I knew, and nothing I came up with gave me any satisfying answers, or satisfied my lack of peace of mind.

It was during spring quarter that a fraternity brother took me to a meeting where I saw and heard students talking about Jesus Christ as a person, and not a swear word. These guys talked about Jesus as if He were really alive and relevant to them, on the campus, today. And these people weren’t campus goof-balls — they were student leaders and athletes, and cute girls. I’d never heard anything like this before, even in church, so I asked the leader of the group if he would explain to me what they were talking about. The next day we got together over a cup of coffee in the HUB at the UW, and he told me these students had a “personal relationship” with Jesus. And then he showed me how I could know Jesus Christ — not as a philosophy, not even as a religion, but as a living person. This news broke into my consciousness like a sledgehammer, and that very day — April 13, 1965 — in the quietness of my fraternity room, I accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord, and asked Him to make me the kind of person He wanted me to be. It was a classic conversion.

Immediately, I was given 2 indicators that something had happened to me:

1. The first indicator was that I now had the power to stop swearing. I, like many guys in my fraternity, had a problem with foul language. I knew swearing was wrong. I knew my crude language cost me friends and respect, even in the fraternity, but I seemed to be powerless to stop — it was a habit of some 15 years of practice. The hour I became a Christian the need or desire to swear went away. I didn’t forget those words; I just didn’t need to use those words in my everyday language. Now I will tell you, it took me a while to create a new vocabulary to replace all the cuss words I left behind.

2. The second piece of corroborating evidence that Christ really had taken control of my life was a genuine, internal peace — a peace that strengthened me so that I wouldn’t be a quitter again. It was a peace that was not dependent on my environment or on my relationship to my environment, but rather it was a peace rooted in God’s absolute sovereignty over my life. I no longer was living the “roller coaster” life, where if something good happened I was up, and if something bad happened, I was down. I was now not so bothered by my particular situation because I was coming to understand that it is God’s world and I am His redeemed child. This did not mean that unpleasant things did not happen to me — but it did mean I now had the intellectual framework to live, in a sense, above those unpleasant things.

That was over 30 years ago. Since that time, I have gone to Europe for Campus Crusade and have acquired several college degrees. I have a wife and 2 college educated daughters. I’ve owned my own business, and I now have a teaching career at Central. And I have never considered anything more important in my life than my relationship with the personal-infinite God through Jesus Christ.

I began my quest to understand my God and my faith on April 13, 1965. It was a matter of having been taken by God from my kingdom of darkness (Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:13) to His kingdom of light (John 3:19; Eph. 5:8), now I needed to understand what had happened to me, for my own benefit, and for anyone else who cared to ask. And that has been a life’s calling since then.

The Biblical Christian who thinks deeply about his/her faith is always confronted by Joshua’s question:
“If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then chose for yourself this day whom you will serve (24:15).”

The choice for the thoughtful person, Christian or not, has always been between the one true God as revealed in Jesus Christ, and the many false gods as taught by men. That is the question: Who will we obey? It is now, as it has always been, a matter of whose authority do we humans recognize? And Jesus claims, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). So the choice is between the self-revealing God disclosed in Jesus, or anyone else. The choice is clear. The choice is simple. The choice is hard. It is hard because God demands that we give up personal authority over our own lives, and submit to His rightful authority (Rom. 6:16, 19). For the Christian, there is no freedom of choice. God calls that personal freedom, that personal autonomy, “sin.” We either serve our Creator or we serve the creature. Those are the only 2 options that any human has. Because we humans are irrevocably religious (Gen. 1:26; Eccles. 3:11; Rom. 2:14-15), we will “worship,” that is to say, we will “give worth” to some thing or some one — we can’t help ourselves.

And where is the only place the Christian can turn to find out what kind of God we are to worship? It is to God’s very speeches to us, His very words to us, the Bible, that the thinking Christian turns for a comprehensive understanding of the natural world, the super-natural world, and the human nature world. If God’s holy Word does not frame and form our thinking about all matters, speculative and practical, then our thinking is not Christian. The Apostle Peter tells us, “[God's] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us . . . (2 Peter 1:3).”

And most famously, Paul tells us,

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3.16).”

It is the Biblical position that one can not think completely truthfully until one 1st becomes a Christian. And we cannot become a Christian until God first illuminates or enlightens our minds and resurrects our dead souls. So we first have faith in God though Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, and then we begin our life-long struggle to understand what has happened to us and to understand the God we rightfully are to obey and worship. This is the way God works: first salvation, then sanctification; first redemption of our soul, then redemption of our mind, first spiritual and moral cleansing, and then intellectual understanding. Is. 7:9 was translated by the great Augustine (354-430) to read, “Unless I believe, I will not understand” (also, Matt. 7:7; John 17:3).2 This Augustinian understanding is the rallying cry of all Christian philosophers: Credo ut intelligam (“I believe in order to understand.”). In, short, after we are saved, we Christians will spend the remainder of our lives trying to understand what God has done for us.

In Hebrews 11:6 we have a most important philosophic text:

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to [God] must believe that [God] exist and that [God] rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

So, faith, reason, knowledge and study are wedded for any thoughtful Christian who wants to understand his/her faith (Phil. 1:9-11; James 1:5; Heb. 5:14). In 1 Cor. 1:20-25 Paul is proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and he is asserting the bankruptcy of secular philosophic wisdom. Paul sets aside the apparent wisdom of the Greeks which is really folly, to make way for the apparent folly of Christianity, which is really wisdom.

The Question of Uniqueness

The great superiority and uniqueness of Christianity is that it is not an abstract system of propositions, but it is a coherent and truthful way of life, propositionally revealed. As Peter tells us, it is the way to godliness, and the way to practical living. That’s why it’s called “the Way” in the Scriptures (Acts 9:2; John 14:6). Or to put it differently: Christianity is a set of true doctrines and a set of practical instructions. It is a system of personal salvation. Furthermore, Christianity not only gives one the directions for leading a virtuous life, it gives one the power to lead a virtuous life. No non-Christian philosophy can boast of the personal power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18).

Christianity is unique in providing truthful answers to 3 basic human problems:
1. The problem of personal significance, or the meaning in life (metaphysics).
2. The problem of moral knowledge and conduct (morality).
3. The problem of knowing anything for certain (epistemology).

Let’s briefly look at these 3 human problem areas and see how Christianity provides the only truthful and consistent answers

1. The Question of personal significance

Christianity teaches that my existence comes from a personal beginning – That is, a supernatural Being was there to begin everything else (including me) as a loving expression of His will.

Because of that personal beginning, there is meaning in the universes Personal longings and personal aspirations are valid and have meaning because our longings and aspirations are absolutely consistent with what the universe intrinsically is — that is, the universe is a personal creation of a personal Being. The alternative is unthinkable: if a human being has a personality in an impersonal world, a world that doesn’t have a personal beginning (a world which is only a product of time + motion + chance), the human being will have risen higher than that which was there at the beginning, leaving open the question, Where do we get human personality and human aspiration?

I know that I, as a person, have meaning and value, and I can know why I have meaning and value, and I can know what that meaning and value are based upon – all because of Biblical Christianity.

There are 2 relationships which any person has:

1. A primary relationship
2. A secondary relationship

Let’s first note the secondary relationship. We have a secondary relationship with creation. God’s is infinite. He stands alone in the universe as being infinite. He is the Creator, all else is the created. In relation to God’s infinity, we finite humans are just as separated from God as is the atom or the machine or the animal or the tree, because we, like them, are created. As such, we are related to all else that is created as fellow-creatures or created-things. And so, there is a secondary relationship between you and me and all creation. This explains our limitedness or finiteness, but it also explains our understanding of and sympathy for all creation. There is a union with the created order around us, which we express in our affection for animals, appreciation for the environment, and our love for each other.

But, God is also personal (in addition to being infinite), and you and I haves been made in His personal image. This is our primary relationship, and this relationship is not downward towards the atom or machine or animal or tree, but upward towards God. You and I are utterly unlike anything else in the created universe because we are personal, just like our creator-God. We are not infinite like God, but we are personal like God, and so we stand with God in a similar relationship to the created universe around us.

2) The Question of Morality

Biblical Christianity teaches us that you and I, as we are now, are abnormal. We are not what we always were, intrinsically. There is a discontinuity with [fan now, as he once was. Only we Christians view humans this way. Man, by his own choice, became abnormal at a space-time moment in history — in the Garden of Eden. God did not change us, we changed ourselves. Because of our act of disobedience, we have a discontinuity now with the original, pure creation. Therefore, we are not intrinsically cruel or immoral.” We were created in the image of an infinite-personal God but when we chose to turn away from Him as a proper integration point, and turn back to our finite-personal selves, we broke the creation order.

The moral consequences of this Biblical understanding of the Fall are great:

a. God. It is we who changed ourselves. This explains how we can be cruel and God can still be good. We can really fight injustice and cruelty in the world. We would no longer be fighting what we humans intrinsically are, nor would we be fighting God. We can be angry at injustice and not be angry with us or angry at God.

b. There is hope of a solution for this moral problem because the moral problem is not intrinsic to our essential nature. We can be changed. The hope is in the substitutionary, propitiatory death of the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ.

c. There can now be real morals. You see, one cannot have true morals without transcendent absolutes. Since God is absolutely the good God, morals are now possible. We have universal categories in the character of God. Moral absolutes are, by definition, not arbitrary morals. They are fixed in what always has been — the character of the personal-infinite God Himself. If God is not there to provide moral absolutes, then morals are determined and governed only by statistical averages (polls and referenda).

There is, therefore, a philosophical necessity for a space/time Fall of humanity where we became abnormal.  This personal, divine beginning with a space/time historic human fall is the personal-infinite God Himself. If God is not there to provide moral absolutes, then morals are determined and governed only by statistical averages (polls and referenda).only answer to our moral dilemma. It is a moral necessity that God exists and has truthfully spoken to us not just in the historical Christ, but also propositionally in the Bible, as to His character and to our character.

3. The question of knowledge

Within the Christian framework, it is not unreasonable for God to speak propositional truth to us because you and I are created in God’s Trinitarian image, and God, in the Trinity, communicated with Himself before time began. Consequently, Christianity has no problem of having certitude in knowledge. We can know absolute truth.

Things are there because God has made them there. Both subject (you and 1) and object (thing out there) exist because God has made them there in the same corresponding frame of reference. With this Biblical understanding, the problem of accuracy of knowledge is solved. We can know truly, without knowing exhaustively because there is an objective correlation between subject and object. We can know it truly because the same personal, infinite Being — God — has made both subject and object in the same cognitive frame of reference.

The main result of this Christian understanding of knowledge is that there is objective reality out there because God has created objective truth. The Christian can live consistently with the world because God has made the world. And, God has given us an understanding of the correlation of the categories of our minds with His objective, external created world. Christianity is true to what exists because of the existence of God, the Creator of what exists.

Nothing is going to be perfect in this life because it’s a fallen world and we are finite. But, because God does exist and He has spoken in the Bible, we do have categories for judging, and we do have meaning to our judging categories.

To sum up, Biblical Christianity is the only true religion. All other religions and worldviews are false, and therefore wrong, and therefore, bad, because they lead people away from the only true God Jehovah who alone offers the individual person eternal life through Jesus the Christ. The post-modern academic world at Central stresses tolerance, pluralism, multiculturalism, and power, but in its dismissing of all truth claims, the post-modern academic world trivializes all cultures and really tolerates no culture with moral standards. Only Biblical Christianity treats the individual person with true integrity because only Biblical Christianity teaches that the individual is god-like. In an age of Multiculturalism, Biblical Christianity stands against the multi-culture of relativism and toleration and false acceptance and says: “Jesus is the way, Jesus is the truth, Jesus is the Life (John 14:6a). Jesus and Jesus alone. No one else but Jesus. Nothing else but Biblical Christianity. Beware, the only culture not accepted in the multi-culture is the truly Biblical culture.

This, then, is our task as Christians: To plumb the depths of the character and actions of God revealed to us in the holy Scriptures by using the intellectual tools God, Himself, has given us. That is our worship. What one has faith in will be revealed in Al the conduct of one’s thought life (Matt. 12:35). May you and I be pleasing to Him as we engage in this life-long intellectual enterprize.

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