Tough Questions

Why do Christians think Jesus is the only way to God?
One of the most common criticisms of Christianity is that it is too narrow minded and not tolerant toward other religions. Many people struggle with the idea that there is only one way to heaven, but within this struggle we must understand who Jesus claimed to be and what He claimed. Jesus claimed to be equal with God (John 5:19-25) and proved it by demonstrating His power over the physical world (Matthew 8:3-13), the spiritual world (Mat. 8:16-17) and nature itself (Mat. 8:23-27). The world claims that Jesus was a great man, a good teacher and a prophet of God. But Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Jesus claimed that He was the only way to God. If He was lying then the conclusions of Him being a “good man,” a “good teacher” and a “prophet of God” are also lies. If these accounts of Him are true then we must seriously consider the weight of His statement. The truth is always narrow. Truth is not relative. You cannot have multiple and opposing “truths.” Jesus was either completely irrational, a liar or exactly who He said He was, The Son of God, the Messiah and the only way to the Father. Christians believe He is who He said He is: the only way to God the Father

If there is a loving God, why is there so much evil in this world?
In answering this question, it is important to remember that God originally created the world perfect, meaning everything was as it should be and properly ordered. God then gave Adam dominion over it. When Adam chose to disobey God and sin, the perfect order of things was entirely disrupted and death and suffering were inevitable. All mankind, as well as all of creation, fell that day. Evil is present not because God actively created it; evil is present because it is a corruption or perversion of that which is good. Evil can not exist apart from good. Rust does not exist apart from the good metal that it is eroding; disease can not exist apart from the havoc it ensues upon good health; murder cannot exist apart from life. God is good and He created all things good. He warned us that this good creation would be vastly compromised if we were to stop trusting Him, disobey Him and rebel against Him. So why would we be surprised that His warnings came true? Why should we be bewildered that we are living the exact consequences that He warned us of? Death, suffering and all things that we would consider “evil” are simply consequences of sin. The problem is that through disobedience and sin the world has rebelled against God and all that He pronounces as good and right. We are actually living opposed to Him and His intentions. That is why there is evil; it is the effect of living contrary to God and His goodness. Therefore, like rust on a chrome bumper, evil exists only because it is a distortion of what is truly good.

Why would a loving God send anyone to hell?
First of all, it isGod’s desire that no one spend eternity apart from Him, so much so that He has made provision for every person. It is also important to note that Hell was not made for people; it was made for Satan and the “fallen” angels who rebelled against God (Matthew 25:41). The Bible teaches that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). That is why He punished sin through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ and made payment for our sin. Anyone can be considered blameless before God if they are willing to trust in the work of His Son, turn from sin and stop their lifelong rebellion against God. He clearly states that life is only found in Him and whoever desires life must come to Him. Only God and God alone can forgive sin, cleanse someone from sin and declare someone justified to stand innocent before Him. It is because we have chosen to pay no attention to God, because we have no desire to know Him (Romans 1:25), and do not love Him or trust Him that we do not take part in His redemptive work and are condemned to live eternally apart from Him.

Imagine there was only one doctor with the only antidote to a terminal disease. A patient with this terminal disease refused to see the doctor and allow him to administer this life-giving antidote and therefore died. You would never question why this doctor sent this person to their death; your question would be why this person rejected the only antidote and therefore deprived himself of life.

When we die there are only two places we can go: We can dwell for eternity in the presence of God, where we will be in the fullness of relationship with Him and utter worship of Him, which is Heaven. Or we can go to Hell which is the absence of God’s presence and the loss of all relationship with Him. Let me ask a question: If someone does not want or desire a relationship with God now, why would someone want or desire a relationship with God for eternity. These people desire Hell not Heaven. As C.S. Lewis once said, “The gates of Hell are locked from the inside.

I’m a good person, so why should I be punished for eternity?
We can often understand the severity of the crime simply by looking at the punishment that was given. If you heard that someone received a fine for $50 and someone else received 3 consecutive life sentences with no chance for parole you could clearly assume that the crime of the second person was far more severe than the crime of the first person. When we sin we commit a crime against an eternal being and therefore our punishment must fit the crime and be punished eternally.

The argument that we are “good” is made because we do not look at good through truly just eyes. God’s standard for “good” is perfection; anything below perfection is no longer good. Let’s say that for every “bad” thing we have done we could make up for it with a “good” thing. To truly do a “good” thing we would have to go above and beyond that which is already required of us. Since perfection is already required of us, it is also the lowest expectation of us. So in order to do something “good” we would have to go above and beyond perfection. That is impossible. How do you do something that is better than perfect? So once we have fallen below the requirement of perfection there is nothing we can do to improve our position. Once we have sinned and committed crimes against an eternal God, we cannot do any “good” deed to make up for it. Our crime is we have failed to fulfill our purpose (Gen. 1:26) of being “image” bearers of God, representing Him and His character before all His creation. Just like a broken DVD player that no longer fulfills its purpose of playing DVD’s it has essentially become worthless (in regard to the purpose it was intended) and is cast aside into the trash heap (which would be hell). His standard is perfection because to represent Him (who is perfect) we must be also; think of how many times you have heard the question, “How could God be good or loving when He allows so much evil?” He is not committing evil, we are, and since we represent Him He is blamed for our wrongdoing, but rest assured, He will correct all that through punishing all sin and quarantining it for eternity. Learn more about giving your life to Christ.

Are the Gospels believable and reliable?
The majority of information about Christ’s life is found in four documents: the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If we are to believe Jesus is who He said He is, we must first determine the historical trustworthiness of these four documents. Since the gospels are ancient documents we will look at them applying the three tests that historians often use to determine the reliability of ancient documents:

1. Manuscript test: How many manuscript copies do we have today and how far removed are they from the original documents in terms of time?

2. External test: How do the documents hold up in regard to facts, dates and persons from other contemporary documents or archeology?

3. Internal test: What do the documents claim for themselves? Are they internally coherent? Are there any contradictions? What is the character of the authors?

Using these tests, one can believe that what they say about Christ is true, because the gospel accounts are reliable as historical and factual documents according to the standards historians have placed on determining these truths. If one will not accept the gospels as reliable and factual, there is either great bias or one must also throw out everything one knows and believes about ancient history.

1. Manuscript test. Perhaps the most tangible method for evaluating the manuscript evidence is a comparison of the New Testament to other historical documents from the same time period. One example is The Annals written by Tacitus in A.D. 100; the earliest manuscript is dated about A.D. 850 and a total of 20 copies have been found. One thousand years separate the original document and the oldest manuscripts of this important Roman work, yet historians commonly accept it as reliable. On the other hand, over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of entire books and fragments of the New Testament have been found. One complete copy of the New Testament (Codex Sinaiticus) is only 300 years removed from the originals, and a fragment of John (Rylands Papyrus: P52) found in Egypt has been dated to only 40 years removed from the original. When compared to any other ancient document, the manuscript evidence for the New Testament presents an overwhelming case for reliability. The span of time between the event and the writings is important for the reason that there is opportunity for refutation by eye witnesses.

2. External test. Three external areas of evidence may be briefly mentioned. First, the dates, geography and description of first century Palestine in the gospels square well with what is known from other ancient documents. Second, archeology continues to confirm the gospel accounts, such as the excavation of the synagogue in Capernaum, Jacob’s well at Sychar, the pool of Bethsaida with its five porticos in Jerusalem and the pool of Siloam, also in Jerusalem. Third, numerous extra-Biblical sources, such as Tacitus, Seutonius, the Jewish Talmud and Josephus document the person of Christ and basic characteristics of His life. In short, the external evidence confirms the historical reliability of the gospels and provides another compelling basis for their trustworthiness.

3. Internal test. Finally, the internal evidence for the credibility of the gospel accounts is abundant. While numerous similarities between the gospels suggest related source material, they also debunk the theory that four different individuals fabricated their works separately. The differences between the gospels discredit the theory of collective fabrication, as well as enhance their authenticity. While the apparent contradictions have puzzled many, a greater understanding of first century writing standards provides adequate explanations in most cases; the result is that the most reasonable explanation is that the gospels represent four different historical accounts of the life of Christ. Robust evidence exists from church tradition and literary style that the authors of the gospels were the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. With this in mind, the authors’ lack of fame and wealth, and their subsequent persecution and martyrdom, are strong indications that these men were not lying, deceiving or fabricating false testimony. Additionally, the presence of living eyewitnesses to the gospel events at the time the manuscripts were circulated would have provided the opportunity for discrediting the gospels, if they were untrue.

Ultimately, when we hold the manuscript evidence, external evidence and internal evidences of the gospels to the same standards we hold all ancient documents, we must conclude that they are more than sufficient in establishing their credibility as historically factual and reliable.