There are two questions I often ask people who claim to be Christians. First, I ask them why they are Christians and second I ask them what I would have to do to make them doubt the validity of their faith. Now that second question may seem strange coming from a pastor, but it is a question that we as Christians must adequately answer.
Sadly the vast majority of people who claim to be Christians claim that title only because they are not something else. They are not Muslim, they are not Jewish, they are not Buddhists or they are not atheists; therefore they conclude they must be Christian.
Clarifying the first of my questions I ask individuals, "If you were born in a country where there were equal influences for Islam, Hinduism and Christianity, would you be a Christian?" The general answer I receive is they are not so sure.
Regarding the second question, what would I have to do to make you doubt the validity of your Christianity? The most common response I hear is there would have to be some sort of great personal tragedy or world-wide catastrophe. If that is your answer, your faith is already in trouble.
The second most common response to that second question is, "You couldn’t do anything to make me doubt my faith!" It is, quite frankly, also a bad answer. It reveals that you really haven’t given much thought to your Christian faith.
Why am I a Christian? What would have to happen to make me doubt Christianity? My answer to the first question is the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. And my answer to the second question is one would have to disprove the resurrection. The Apostle Paul put it succinctly when he wrote, "Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied" (1 Corinthians 15:12-19, ESV) .
It is the resurrection of Christ that is for me at least that proof positive that my faith is not in vain. It is the message of the resurrection that sets Christianity apart from every other world-religion or world view. It is the message of the resurrection that proves to me that my faith is not a vain faith; a useless one; a pie-in-the sky hope. It is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead that sets him apart from every other religious leader who ever lived. It is the resurrection of Jesus that demands a decision from you today. The Bible says, ‘"Since we are God’s children, you must not think that God is like something that people imagine or make from gold, silver, or rock. In the past, people did not understand God, and he ignored this. But now, God tells all people in the world to change their hearts and lives. God has set a day that he will judge all the world with fairness, by the man he chose long ago. And God has proved this to everyone by raising that man from the dead!’ When the people heard about Jesus being raised from the dead, some of them laughed. But others said, ‘We will hear more about this from you later’" (Acts 17:29-32, NCV).
What about you? This Easter will you celebrate the resurrection as mere myth and like the people in our text above laugh at the ignorance of anyone who believes it to be true, or will you celebrate it as the incontrovertible fact of history it is and seek to learn more about it? All of Christianity stands or falls on this event: the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Because he lives, we can have hope.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.