Famous atheist Christopher Hitchens was once interviewed by a Unitarian minister for the Portland Monthly about his opposition to religion, and more specifically, Christianity. Here is part of the exchange from the Portland Monthly dated 12/17/2009:
Minister: “The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make a distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?”
Hitchens: “I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.”
Like most of our country, Christianity is having an identity crisis. The divide over what we believe and how we define our faith is growing. It’s nothing new. Since the beginning, humans have struggled to come to terms with the existence of God or a supreme being. Even when we decide to “believe” a god or gods exist, we have a hard time agreeing on who or what they are.
Since I choose to believe that God exists, and more specifically the God of the Bible, I have to decide what I’m willing to believe about Him. In order to build a system of faith there has to be a basis or a foundation for that faith to stand on. How and why did I come to believe? Why will I continue to believe? What evidence do I have to substantiate or verify my faith or belief system?
Faith is the tricky part. Faith is complete trust in someone or something, right? But, all religions are based on faith in someone or something that is currently unseen. There is a god out there somewhere that exists beyond our grasp and comprehension. It’s almost like science fiction.
The foundation of my faith is based on personal encounters, eyewitness accounts, and/or “stories” about God that have been passed down by word of mouth and recorded in ancient manuscripts over thousands of years. There seems to be some historical evidence that the events recorded and passed down actually happened, but the evidence is not completely verifiable. Therefore, I am choosing to believe in something that cannot be definitively proven without a doubt, so I have to take it on faith. I have to trust that what I believe in is true whether I can prove it or not.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
If faith is “complete” trust in someone or something, then having confidence, hope, and assurance in someone or something that I can’t see is a huge leap.
This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11:2-3 (NIV)
The writer of Hebrews points out that the “ancients”, or those who believed in the past, should be commended or praised for taking such a leap of faith. It’s impressive. Check out the end of the last sentence in this passage. “What is seen was not made out of what was visible.” How many times did you have to read that? I have read it many times. It’s a mind bender. Basically God commanded that something, the universe that was unseen or invisible would become visible. I can understand why people have such a hard time with Christianity. It’s a mind blower. It requires a huge leap of faith.
I have chosen to take that leap of faith. I have put my faith, hope, trust, and assurance in God the Father, Jesus Christ His only Son, and the Holy Spirit. I believe the Bible, which God inspired, is the foundation of my faith, and that creation is the evidence that backs it up.
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:16-21 (NIV)
Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:19-20 (NIV)
Christopher Hitchens makes an interesting point, and asks a fundamental question about Christian identity. Should I call myself a Christian if I don’t believe in the foundational tenets of the faith?
If Jesus is not God, if Jesus didn’t die for our sins, if there was no resurrection, then there is no Christianity. If Jesus death was unnecessary and some kind of divine child abuse, then forgiveness for sin is irrelevant. Maybe there is no sin at all. Where does it stop? Once you start pulling out these strategic pieces of the foundation, the structural integrity is compromised and falls apart.
If Jesus was just a great man and did some cool stuff like Gandhi, Buddha, Martin Luther King Jr., etc., we would definitely revere and respect Him, maybe even adopt His philosophy, but would we worship Him? Would we put our hope, trust, faith, and assurance for this life and the next in a fallible human being? I wouldn’t and won’t.
I get it. Christianity is a quantum leap. The story, if you want to call it that, is a whopper. It is difficult to accept, comprehend, prove, and digest. It has been dividing the world for centuries. If some want to deconstruct it and make it more believable or palatable, it’s a free country. But is it Christianity or another gospel all together?
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management