The most effective way to quiet an opponent is to put them on the defensive. As Christians, for the most part, our tendency is not to go on the attack in that way. We have this desire to bring peace to the highest extent possible. On the other hand, people who oppose Christianity often make it a practice to bring up anything they can to try and put us on the defensive.
As we consider how to deal with this kind of situation, we need to get over our reluctance to go on offense. This is not to advocate that we attack for the sake of attacking. In our Christian faith, the ends do not justify the means. It is not okay for us to have an ugly attitude as we defend our position. But it is certainly possible for us to be confident that our Christian faith is the truth, and to lovingly express that in a way which keeps us from finding ourselves on the defensive.
Getting at the “Truth” Issue
The bottom line of not having to be defensive is to know why our faith is the truth and why other belief systems are not. The key to this emerges out of an understanding of worldview.
This article will not go into depth about the details of the process of doing that. Today we are going to go in a slightly different direction and simply look at bottom lines. Since the four foundational worldviews differ at such a fundamental level, it is possible for the actual truth about the structure of reality to be embedded in only one of them. Using a simple analytical method, we are able to quickly and easily figure out which three of the four we can completely eliminate. We will be able to do the same kind of analysis on the fourth one as well. But there are some additional nuances there which require us dig a little deeper to help us discover why one particular faith (our Christian faith) is true and all of the other beliefs within the correct worldview are not.
To give an initial summary, the three worldviews which do not contain the truth are Naturalism, Animism and Far Eastern Thought. Theism is the worldview approach which contains the actual truth. But even within Theism there are many different belief systems, and only one of them can be true. As we examine the possibilities we will see why our Christian faith is the most reasonable alternative. If we can reach a place where we are confident about this, we need never be on the defensive again.
How to Analyze Belief Systems
As we explore the evidence for truth, there is a short process we must go through. The following four steps can be used to evaluate any belief system at any level. It can be used to appraise an entire worldview system or a specific religion or philosophy. The four steps are:
1. Determine which of the four worldviews categories the belief system falls into. This will help us later in our evaluation.
2. Determine the authority which the belief uses to support its conclusions. Every belief system has something that it relies on to assert itself as the truth.
3. Determine what evidence exists for the reliability of the authority. There has to be some kind of evidence, and it is either reliable or not. Something is used to support a system’s authority, and we need to know what that is.
4. Finally, we must take the evidence and evaluate it.
Using these four steps, we can begin to determine the validity of the various belief systems. Let’s start with the three foundational worldviews which do not, in any configuration, represent the truth.
Why Naturalism is not the Truth
The foundational authority for Naturalism is human rationality. It is assumed that everything which exists is the result of natural causes, and we can understand it by human reason. The only problem with this approach is that there is no basis for making that assumption. It dismisses, out of hand, any possibility of a supernatural reality, but does so based only on the faith assertion that there is no supernatural reality. There is, simply, no evidence for this assertion.
On top of that, it is unable to use natural evidence to come to its conclusion – which it must if it is going to claim that the natural is all that exists. It cannot account for the origin of the material which makes up the natural universe, the origin of life, the origin of the many species of life forms, or the origin of human self-consciousness. It is entirely a faith position, and adherents can do no more than assert that “this is true because I believe it is true.”
Naturalism simply has no basis for answering those who rationally assert another position. They cannot answer why their rationally derived position is right and other rationally derived positions are wrong. Adherents do try to bring scientific rationale and evidence to the table, but unless they are able to use natural means to answer the questions above on origins, the evidence has no basis for acceptance.
Why Animism is not the Truth
Animism believes that there are spiritual and physical elements of reality and that they operate in a symbiotic relationship. The actions that physical beings take in the physical part affect the spiritual beings in the spiritual part, and vice versa.
This worldview position is typically asserted on the basis of tradition. Over the centuries, the beliefs and traditions have been passed on, mostly orally, from generation to generation. The problem is, all of the evidence for this point of view is anecdotal and is totally dependent on people believing the Animistic worldview. There is no external evidence that can be brought to bear to back it up. People believe it because that is what they have been taught growing up, not because of any kind of external evidence. There is no basis for answering those who grew up with another set of traditions as to why their traditions are right and other traditions are wrong.
Why Far Eastern Thought is not the Truth
Far Eastern Thought asserts that reality is composed of an ultimate impersonal life force which exists outside of the material universe. There are, though, elements of that life force which are separated from the main body and are manifested in physical reality. All of these separated pieces are continually reincarnating to higher and higher levels within the material universe on their drive to move closer to the main body, and ultimately reconnect with it.
This worldview is primarily founded on human experience. Once again, there is no external proof to back up the assertions. There are numerous holy books and individuals who have claimed to have special knowledge of all of this, but it is all based on their own personal experience of life using Far Eastern Thought worldview assumptions. There is no external evidence that any of it is true.
As with Animism, all of the evidence which tries to back this up is anecdotal, and requires that an individual already accept the foundational assumptions of the worldview. There is no basis for answering those who grew up with a different set of experiences as to why their experiences are right and other experiences are wrong.
Why All Theistic Belief Systems Outside of Christianity Are Not the Truth
All Theistic belief systems believe in a God who is transcendent and who is responsible for the existence of the material universe. To be sure, the ultimate truth about reality is contained within a Theistic system. But in order to get at the ultimate truth, we have to work a little harder. There are, in fact, many Theistic belief systems, all which have their own unique understanding of ultimate reality, man and salvation. All of them cannot be right. In fact, reality only exists as it exists, and everything else is not right. This is the only possibility since every belief literally excludes every other belief concerning the essential matters of faith.
To properly address this, we really need to deal with each belief system individually. Obviously, in a short article like this, that is not possible. We can, though, lay out some principles which can be used to eliminate all of the systems which do not represent ultimate truth. If you apply these principles to understanding a non-Christian Theistic belief system, you will quickly discern why it is not the truth. We will lay this out as a series of questions.
1. Do the teachings of the belief which relate to the nature and experience of humanity, match up with how human beings actually experience life?
2. What positive evidence exists that a particular approach to understanding reality is right?
3. Is there valid evidence for the historical accuracy of a system’s authority source?
4. Is the authority source logically and historically consistent within itself?
5. Is there any kind of external corroboration that a particular approach to understanding reality is right (scientific, historical, archeological, etc.)?
6. Are the founders and developers of the belief system trustworthy?
The fact is, all non-Christian, Theistic faith systems crumble at one or more of these questions.
Why Hybrid Belief Systems Are Not the Truth
There are a number of belief systems which we call hybrids. These are beliefs which try to take elements from two or more worldviews and combine them – usually in an attempt to try and not exclude anyone. There are two profound problems with this.
First of all, every worldview literally contradicts every other worldview. If two elements from contradictory worldviews are put into one system, you automatically have an internal contradiction. For example, God can’t be both personal and impersonal at the same time. Man can’t be a sinner and not a sinner at the same time.
The first problem is enough, on its own, to disqualify a hybrid from being the truth. But there is a second problem that also emerges. Each hybrid has its own history and authority which can be evaluated. In doing this, none of them are able to pass the “validity” test.
Why Our Christian Faith Is the Truth
While there is no objective scientific test which can validate the truth of any belief system, including our own, there is tremendous evidence which can be brought to the table to give us confidence that our Christian faith is the truth. Entire books, literally, have been written on this topic, so we are not able, here, to give a detailed account. We can, though, give some short answers to the six questions above which will serve as a foundation for our confidence.
1. Do the teachings of the belief which concern the nature and experience of humanity, match up with how human beings actually experience life?
In fact, they match up perfectly! The Bible teaches that humans are personal, self-aware beings, that we are capable of knowledge, that we have a sense of morality, that we experience the world as an objective reality, and that we have a transcendent spiritual sense. We can’t deal with all of the evidence here, but these issues, along with many others, match up perfectly with the way we, as human beings, actually experience life.
2. What positive evidence exists that the Christian approach to understanding reality is right?
There are many streams of evidence which point us to the truth of the Christian faith. There are such things as:
- The Biblical teachings about man match up with actual human experience.
- The textual and historical evidence for the accuracy of the Bible is very strong.
- The evidence that Christ was who the Bible says he was it strong.
- There is strong archeological evidence for the Bible’s accuracy.
- The life of Christ stands the test of character.
- The life of Christ matches up with the identity of the Messiah from prophesy.
- There are literally scores of fulfilled prophesy in the Bible.
This list could go on, but this is sufficient to make our point here.
3. Is there valid evidence for the historical accuracy of its authority source (the Bible)?
The historical accuracy of the Bible is backed up by archeological research and by the sheer volume of manuscripts available from very early sources.
4. Is the authority source (the Bible) logically and historically consistent within itself?
The Bible is completely consistent within itself, in spite of the fact that it was written over a period of more than 1500 years by dozens of authors. While there are still matters which have not been verified by archeological finds, incredibly, every archeological find which has ever been discovered, relating to matters in the Bible, has backed up its accuracy.
5. Is there any kind of external corroboration that the Christian approach to understanding reality is right (scientific, historical, archeological, etc.)?
There is strong scientific, historical and archeological evidence for the truth of the Bible’s information which is found outside of the Biblical text itself.
6. Are the founders and developers of this belief system trustworthy?
There has never been any legitimate finding to discredit the validity of any of the founding fathers of the Christian faith. This does not imply that these were perfect people, but that what they received from God, and passed on, was the truth. Additionally, the character of Christ, along with the evidence of his death and resurrection, are profound evidence of his trustworthiness.
Please understand that the answers given here are very incomplete because of space constraints. It is our intention only to give you places to begin your own personal research. There are literally massive amounts of material that can be brought to bear on each of these questions.
How to Deal with Those Who Try to Put You Down
Almost without exception, those who would try to challenge your faith will begin by telling you all of the reasons Christianity is wrong. Don’t let the discussion remain there. You certainly need to be able to give a defense of the hope that is within you, but that is not the key to keeping people from putting down your faith. You, certainly, need the positive information about how to share the gospel with those who are willing to listen. But when you deal with the those who are challenging your faith, it will be necessary to turn it around and make them defend what they believe. As we have seen above, they will not be able to do it.
But you also need to realize that most people who attack the Christian faith will not understand the true nature of their opposition until you force them to see it. Most people who tend to be against the Christian faith are looking for reasons why they don’t have to acknowledge God, and are not nearly as concerned with the inconsistencies of their own beliefs.
Use the following approach to turn a conversation to your advantage.
Challenger: Your Christian faith is wrong because … (science disproves it or there is no such thing as truth, or I believe in reincarnation, or whatever).
Christian: I don’t believe that you are correct, but just for arguments sake, let’s say you are right. Since you don’t believe my faith is the truth, tell me positively what you believe is the truth.
Once they do that, you are in a position to show them that what they believe is a faith position and that they have no standing to attack you and your beliefs. Using this approach you will immediately put them on the defensive about their faith. It will become evident that it is wrong for them to be attacking you for your faith when they, themselves, are attacking from a position that can’t be defended.
Of course, the ultimate reason for doing this is not simply to attack and beat another person. There are, certainly, those situations where that is all you will be able to do. The ultimate goal, though, is to share Christ with them. If you can create an opening where they are willing to consider that they may not be right, it may then become possible for you to share the truth of Christ with them.
© 2007 Freddy Davis