I really like apologetics.
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, apologetics means “reasoned arguments or writings in explanation of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.”
Another good definition for apologetics, especially in my specific case, comes from 1Peter 3:15 in the Bible: “But in your hearts revere Christ as LORD. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have within you. Do this with gentleness and respect.”
Unpack it: One of the questions I get most often when it comes to religion is “Why Jesus?” Why, indeed. I’ve asked myself this question. I’ve asked others this question. There are many other belief systems in the world, serving many other proclaimed deities, (whether it be gods from centuries old like the Muslim Allah, or more recent religious infatuations like New Age/Spirituality where the god of Self is your only leader) with many different ideas of what makes a moral life, what happens when we die, and, if there is any destination after we die, how we arrive there. With all of the different options, why Jesus? This is a question that I love to answer, because it leads to me talking about my favorite topic – Jesus. But also because, this question is a call to action – it is a call to give the very answer that the rest of the world is grappling with; where does your hope come from?
The simple/Christian-ese answer: I choose Jesus because I believe He is the only way to eternal life. Additionally, I believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I believe that He chose to die a sacrificial death on the cross, in order to pay the price for my sins. I am a sinner and deserve to go to hell for my crimes against God, but in God’s incredible grace and mercy, He made a way for us to come to Him, through the death of His son Jesus. I choose Jesus because I know that He is who He says He is.
Okay, but why? As many of you know, I was raised going to church. Up until high school, the majority of my friends came from similar religious backgrounds that I did. I went to Sunday School, sat through “grown up” church, went to a weekly Awana club (a kid’s club centered around bible study and memorization). When I got to high school, I went to a youth group, went on yearly retreats, and attended summer Bible studies. As soon as I started college I was in search of a campus church to get involved with in San Marcos where I have continued to be involved today. So with all of this “Jesus” around me, some people may look at me and say “Of course you choose Jesus. You’ve probably never thought of anything else. You may not have even had a choice in the matter.”
Lol. Nah, fam.
I am a walking, talking personification of the Discovery Channel motto “Question everything.” Always have been. I probably always will be.
If anything, my extensive background going to church gave me a huge threshold for questioning all of the belief systems around me. I’ve studied Mormonism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, New Age, Hinduism, Taoism, Wicca, Jehovah Witness, Scientology and Christianity. I’ve also studied the “non-religions”; atheism and agnostics. I’ve listened to extensive debates between incredibly scholastic, highly educated scientists, philosophers and religious leaders arguing about everything from the origins of the universe to the existence of souls. I still choose Jesus.
Whyyyy though? One of the many things I hear from people is “All religions pretty much preach the same thing – be a good person and you go to Heaven.”
Haha! If only it were that simple though.
While it is true, most religions teach that you must perform a certain number of good works to achieve heavenly status, the range of what qualifies as “good” spans from polygamy (LDS/Mormonism – not all Mormons believe this to be true, but it is in the Holy Book of Mormon that the more wives a man has, the better equipped he is to help populate the earth, and therefore achieve greater status in God’s eyes) to a life of frugality (Amish) there are radical branches of Islam that believe their mission is to either convert or kill all of the “infidels” (non-Muslim) in the world in order to receive a position in Heaven someday. Some religions believe that suicide is an unforgivable sin, yet others praise suicide in battle as the greatest good. What is golden to one religion is dirty rags to another. So how can we ever know what is “good” and what’s “bad”? Additionally, if you identify with no religion, and classify yourself as an atheist or agnostic, then you also have to ask – what even is morality at all? If we are all here as a result of random chance, a product of billions of years of evolution, then what does morality mater?
The simple truth is no, all religions do not preach the same thing. By any means.
But here’s what all of these religions do have in common: works. Acts. Do this + do this + do this – don’t do that = golden ticket to Heaven. Buddhism teaches that by immersing oneself in meditation and good living, you can ultimately break the cycle of reincarnation that all souls are locked in, and finally reach enlightenment (aka Heaven). Taoism teaches that one can achieve peace (Taoists do not believe in an afterlife, but that our current state of life is the greatest glory) through accepting the flow of life through meditation and other mystic practices. Mormonism believes that if you fulfill enough of the commandments listed in the Holy Book of Mormon, you can not only be admitted into Heaven, but you can achieve higher, superior “levels” of Heaven. Scientologists believe that you can “buy” Heaven. These are just a few.
Here’s why I choose Jesus: Jesus isn’t about works. In fact, the Bible even says that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) There is nothing you can do to earn Heaven. If there was, then why did Jesus have to die such a brutal and horrible death? If there was any other way to Heaven, then why did God send His own son to die? If I could earn Heaven, then Jesus’s death and resurrection was pointless. If His death and resurrection was pointless then His purpose was wasted. If His purpose was wasted then He isn’t the son of God. If He isn’t the son of God then God Himself is also a liar. Everything in Christianity falls apart when you start treating Heaven like an open-door policy that we can “good vibes” our way into.
Here’s something else they all have in common: Where is their god?
In some religions, they acknowledge the presence of a god, whom they must serve and appease in order to hopefully receive blessings. This goes back historically as far as the ancient Mayans and beyond, and in present day religions we can find similar sentiments in Islamic religions. They have no personal relationship with their deity and instead are slaves to their god, working to appease and earn favor in the eyes of their god. Even Mormonism, that claims to follow the “Christian God” is based around doing everything possible to earn favor with their version of God. Others, more “free-style” religions like Spirituality and Scientology, acknowledge the possibility that there is a god, but doubt the need for a personal relationship with this deity. They describe God as being more like “an energy” that “emanates from the universe.” If they do believe in a god, their presence in the followers life is to be served and appeased in return for good favor. If there is no god in their belief, they must therefore also dismiss the questions to our general purpose in life and definitions of morality.
Here’s why I choose Jesus: Jesus, the Son of God is the only deity that has made a proclamation of desiring to personally connect with His followers. (James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts.”) (Psalm 86:14, 1Peter 3:28-22, John 15:5, Revelation 3:20) In Islam, it is considered heresy to claim a relationship with Allah. Buddha himself said that he was not here to form a bond with his followers. Jesus is the only God that loves and claims His followers as His beloved. Jesus is also the only deity that died for His followers. Who can imagine a greater love than that of one who will give His life for another? (Romans 5:8, John 15:13) When you think about it, this is an incredible concept; the God of the universe, creator of all things past, present and future, filled with all power, wisdom and knowledge, saw fit to send His son, dim His glory, take on the evil doings of the world, and die for them. What other religion can make this claim?
Final thoughts: There is a general acceptance that Jesus the person existed on this earth. Many have described Him as a “good teacher” and some even give Him the credit of being a prophet (Mormonism and Islam both agree that Jesus was not the Christ, but was just a prophet.) However, the truth becomes clear that Jesus was not a “good person”.
Jesus blasted through any impressions that He could be merely a good person or even a prophet when over and over there are written accounts of Jesus proclaiming Himself as the Son of God. (Luke 22:17, Matthew 27:43, John 19:7, Matthew 16:15-17)
This leads to only three conclusions:
Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or the Son of God.
There is no room left for any other interpretation.
Final call: Some of you that are reading this have grown up in strong Christian backgrounds like myself. Maybe the things you’ve just read aren’t news to you. But I will encourage you to continue to explore the way that your beliefs measure up against other world views and ask yourself the tough questions. Beliefs without convictions aren’t true beliefs – they’re memorized rules. In the words of my favorite lyricist, Lin Manuel Miranda “If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?” Some of you reading this have been around Christianity, and have considered this “idea of an all knowing, loving God” but don’t fully believe it to be true. I call you to the same challenge: investigate what you believe. Don’t just drift through life, blindly accepting a complacent world-view that “anything is possible – it doesn’t matter as long as you live a good life.” Finally, some of you that are reading this have completely rejected the possibility of God, and choose to only believe in “what science can prove” (btw, science can’t prove how a bumblebee can fly. The physics don’t add up. They shouldn’t be able to become airborne. And yet, they spread their tiny wings and their stubby little bodies fly. Science doesn’t know everything.) My call is also for you – that you have read my blog and understood a little more about why I choose Jesus. My prayer is that through reading this, you have come to understand that there is, in fact, logical thought behind my decision to choose Jesus. I pray that these words will not remain simple words on a screen but that they will settle into your hearts and lead to new conversations about new ideas and perspectives.
Jeremiah 31:3 “The LORD appeared to him from far away. ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.'”