One man’s Reader’s Digest version of why I am a Christian

JP: I thought this was a good read (see caveat below the blockquote).

Answering the Atheists – A Reader’s Digest version of why I am a Christian

Excerpts:

Let’s face it: Atheism is in. Not since Nietzsche have disbelievers enjoyed such a ready public reception to their godless message—and such near-miraculous royalties. But even that hasn’t put them in a good mood. Snaps Christopher Hitchens, who wrote God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (although not, presumably, the pronouncements of atheists), “Many of the teachings of Christianity are, as well as being incredible and mythical, immoral.” A feuding Richard Dawkins suggests that believers “just shut up.” Apparently, they didn’t get the tolerance memo.

But remembering Bertrand Russell’s famous essay, “Why I Am Not a Christian,” here is a Reader’s Digest version of why I am.

  1. Creation: The universe, far from being a howling wasteland indifferent to our existence, appears to be finely tuned … to support life on this planet.
  2. Beauty: Beethoven’s Ninth, a snowflake, the sweet smell of a baby who has been sleeping, and a sunset beyond the dunes of Lake Michigan all point to a magnificent and loving Creator.
  3. New Testament reliability: … Scholar F. F. Bruce said, “The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar.”
  4. Scripture: Unlike other religious texts, the Bible gives us the good, the bad, and the ugly of its heroes: Abraham, Jacob, David, and Peter among them. Further, Scripture’s message rings true.
  5. Jesus: Christ’s life and teachings are unparalleled in world history, as any Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim—or atheist—worth his salt will admit. Napoleon reportedly said, “I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and whatever other religions the distance of infinity.”
  6. The trilemma: C.S. Lewis, commenting on Christ’s claim to divinity, said: “You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
  7. Resurrection: After the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty. His formerly despondent disciples then turned the Roman world upside down with the message that Christ had conquered death. And they were willing to die for it. The best explanation, according to N. T. Wright and other scholars, is that Christ rose from the dead.
  8. Testimonies: While many Christians have behaved badly, Christ specializes in turning sinners around. What other faith can boast of a Chuck Colson? A John Newton? A William Wilberforce? Then there are the innumerable soup kitchens, universities, hospitals, and orphanages founded to the glory of Christ.
  9. My experience: Finally, as a forgiven sinner, I testify to an imperfect yet growing sense of God’s peace, presence, and provision since receiving Christ more than a quarter-century ago. Despite occasional setbacks, my faith has deepened and strengthened, whatever life brings.

Caveat: I do not fully endorse every aspect of this article: for example, the author’s comment about the world being an “estimated 13.7 billion years” old. I personally am an young earth creationist.

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What does Creation “ex nihilo” mean?

JP: Image above is entitled “The “Pillars of Creation” from the Eagle Nebula“. Taken by Hubble, this and other images are available from hubblesite.org

JP: Brief article from GotQuestions.org

What does Creation “ex nihilo” mean?

Excerpts:

“Ex nihilo” is Latin for “from nothing.” The term “creation ex nihilo” refers to God creating everything from nothing. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Prior to that moment there was nothing. God didn’t make the universe from preexisting building blocks. He started from scratch.

….
Humans can be very creative, but we require materials from which to build something. God is not so constrained. This is difficult for us to comprehend because of a fundamental law of physics which we are all familiar with. Whether or not we know what it’s called, we’re all familiar with a very basic principle. The “first law of science” states that matter (the stuff the universe is made of) cannot be created or destroyed. Matter can converted from solid to liquid to gas to plasma and back again; atoms can be combined into molecules and split into their component parts; but matter cannot be created from nothing or completely destroyed. And so this idea that God created everything from nothing is not natural to us. It’s not natural at all—it’s supernatural.

The term “creation ex nihilo” refers to the supernatural event which was the beginning of the universe. It was the moment that God created something from nothing.

JP: Good article by Charles Hodge from his Systematic Theology.

The Scriptural Doctrine of the Origin of the Universe

Excerpts:

The Scriptural doctrine on this subject is expressed in the first words of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The heavens and the earth include all things out of God. Of which things the Scriptures teach that they owe their existence to the will and power of God. The Scriptural doctrine therefore is, (1.) That the universe is not eternal. It began to be. (2.) It was not formed out of any preëxistence or substance; but was created ex nihilo. (3.) That creation was not necessary. It was free to God to create or not to create, to create the universe as it is, or any other order and system of things, according to the good pleasure of his will.
….
According to the Scriptures God is self-sufficient. He needs nothing out of Himself for his own well-being or happiness. He is in every respect independent of his creatures; and the creation of the universe was the act of the free will of that God of whom the Apostle says in Rom. xi. 36, “Of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things.”

From Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology, Part 1, Chapter X. The full three volumes of his work are available at ccel.org.