If you’re reading this article and personally know me, please understand I am trying to outline my viewpoint on these topics as accurately as I can. I cannot help your reaction to the thoughts and conclusions I have reached, but I will try to make my case as best I can, as I understand it. Please understand this is not an attempt to persuade you, or change your viewpoint.
Regardless, it is important to give you some background information on my life…
I grew up in a Christian family, specifically within the Church of Christ faith. The Church of Christ has many core teachings that differ from all other denominations within Christianity. However, many teachings are unchanged, or similar, to most of the other prominent Christian denominations.
If I were to try and give you an accurate description of the Church of Christ, the following characteristics would be how I would have you, at a high level, understand the teachings of the Church of Christ.
- There is one God, as three distinct persons but all fully God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other words, three in one, or as one. Many Churches of Christ insist you call this by the more biblical term, the “Godhead”. Others accept the term “trinity”, but both terms get at the idea of what this concept is trying to teach.
- The Church began with Jesus, he died for it, and it should be named after him – thus, the “Church of Christ”. Many times this is furthered by a few different quotes in the bible that reference “Churches of Christ” – such as in the book of Romans. However, many if not most will also accept a name such as “City Church” or “The Church at City” where ‘City’ is an actual location name. However, beyond what I have outlined on the naming of the church, typically you will find major disputes among this denomination as to whether said name is biblical or not.
- Communion is once a week, every Sunday, non-alcoholic juice and unleavened bread.
- There is only one way to be saved: First hear the word, believe and have faith in Jesus, repent of your sin, confess Jesus before people, be baptized (immersion only) for the forgiveness of your sins and to obtain the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and finally remain faithful until death.
- Singing, praying (in Jesus name), and giving a contribution of some sort are important factors as well.
- Jesus died on a cross at the hands of the Jews and Romans. The Jews claimed he was a blasphemer equating himself to God; and the Romans saw him as one causing dissension directly affecting the totalitarian rule of the Romans. Thus, between and Jews and Romans – the Church of Christ claims both parties had a hand in the death of Jesus.
- After Jesus death, he was buried in a tomb owned by a member of the Sanhedrin named Joseph of Arimathea. On the third day after he died, he was resurrected back to life by God the Father, which essentially vindicated his claims about being the Messiah. There are a few passages in the New Testament that claim that followers, and even enemies had encounters with the risen Jesus.
There are many other teachings that the Church of Christ hold, but these would be at least a close representation of the most cherished teachings of the Church of Christ.
These teachings have no room for varying interpretation – these are core to the Church of Christ (CoC).
Now, this is not a critique of how the CoC derives these teachings exegetically. To clarify, persuasions aside, I am not critiquing if their analysis of biblical texts to derive doctrine are correct or incorrect from what the words themselves say in the Bible.
However, the issue I have is more fundamental. For instance, consider the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. What evidence do I have to be able to verify this claim as being a true? If we put aside personal experiences (i.e. I feel it is true, or I just know it is true) and analyze the evidence, what do we have?
The way I see it is we have a lot of writings from a long time ago. From so long ago that there is no way that I can verify these writings are true. Now, rather than go down this line of reasoning any further, I do tend to compare Islam to Christianity at this point. That is to say, the same reason I am not a Muslim is the same reason I am no longer a Christian – I cannot verify the claims of Islam. For example, Muslims teach that Muhammad had a revelation from God, and that he was God’s final messenger to mankind. How am I supposed to verify this? All we have are written documents.
At this point, we can get into the validity of the documents themselves. Going back to Christianity, the Christian faith affirms both the Old Testament Jewish scriptures, as well as the New Testament scriptures. If we take the New Testament, which is a collection of pivotal documents to the Christian faith, we can begin to ask questions about these documents.
- Who wrote the Gospels and how do we know?
- How can we verify the miracles of Jesus?
- How can we verify the witness testimony?
- Is it possible the early Christians were fooled?
- How did the Bible come together?
- Is faith a reliable method of discovering truth?
Who Wrote the Gospels and how do we know?
Unfortunately, and to the surprise I assume to at least a few, we literally have no idea who wrote the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Putting aside self claims of authorship from the documents themselves, as well as conspiracy theories of why it may make sense for say Mark to have written Mark – any Christian scholar who is attempting to be honest (and the vast majority of Christian scholars) will tell you we do not know.
How can we verify the miracles of Jesus (or any biblical miracle)?
How would you actually verify them? “We have writings that say it happened” ; “Many people saw them” – etc?
Claims are claims – they are not evidence.
I have found that Christians have a hard time distinguishing between truth claims, and actual verified truth (only in the sense to biblical claims). Please understand, I am making no judgment on the matter. The claims could be true, but without a method to verify them, we can at best say these are unverified claims.
How can we verify the witness testimony?
Many times attempts at verifying the witness testimony turns into a different question – that being, what was the character of the witnesses? Were they reliable and trustworthy? Of course the claim is they were reliable and trustworthy. However, this is a separate question entirely. It may be pertinent, but the problem is that without being able to actually verify the writers’ of these accounts, how can we trust their claims made about people who we’ve never met or seen who supposedly lived 2000 years ago in the Middle East?
Is it possible the early Christians were fooled?
This may better be asked as, is the best explanation of an empty grave – resurrection? The moment that resurrection is offered as the best explanation of why Christianity started as a movement is the moment we have a massive claim that needs verified. Generally the purported evidence of this claim is that the Church began seemingly out of no where with this as its central claim.
However, can we liken this to Islam? Yes. And actually very, very closely. One day Islam didn’t exist. And then one day Islam existed. From the foundation of Islam the claim was Muhammad was God’s final messenger. Does that mean that Muhammad is God’s final messenger? At best we can say that is the claim.
A better explanation of why Christianity started is to say they were fooled. Assuming Jesus was buried in Joseph’s tomb, it is not difficult to see how the body could end up missing. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, and self-proclaimed he would rise again. Many people do not like to face the idea that the body could have been stolen. That said, I will admit I do not know what happened.
The real problem though is that the Christian account could be accurate, but not verifiable. And for this reason, and this reason alone – makes believing in Christianity a matter of faith. And as I have said before to many other people – you can have faith in anything.
How did the Bible come together?
To answer this quickly, the Bible was assembled by committee. Any Christian scholar when pressed will admit that this is the case. That is to say, the 66 books that compose the Bible were texts selected by men the Church would not claim are inspired, and then by committee were selected to be canonized. That is to say, mere men put together the book that is the so-called Word of God.
Is faith a reliable method of discovering truth?
I cannot see how faith is a reliable method to discovering truth. Many people employ faith to reach mutually exclusive conclusions. That is to say, many of the world religions rely on faith to reach their conclusions – and it goes without saying that many of these conclusions are drastically different and at odds with each other.
Please understand that I have not discounted Christianity. I have simply stated that the claims of Christianity cannot be verified. This is not shocking as the religion requires and directly says faith is required.
I do not harbor any hard feelings towards my family for the way I grew up and was taught. I also know that some who read this will be upset or shocked at the conclusions I have reached. For this, I am not sorry but would say we must each be true to our convictions. I am a seeker of truth and to that end would simply say – I am open to truth claims which can be verified.
This article may be changed over time, deleted, or remain as is – I do not know. This is just an active article on my current understanding of my own worldview and how religion and empiricism play into it.