I'm including this here for anyone who has wrestled with basic questions about Christianity. This is a response to another blogger who is wondering if her notions of Evangelicals are accurate. We've had only brief exchanges previously, so you're not missing much background except for the fact that this blogger is studying to be a lawyer. I copy my responses here along with her four questions:
Yeah, this does have the potential to be a long response, but I can deal with it if you can! Actually I'll try to be brief, be feel free to ask me to further explain anything you want. What you'll find is that I don't know all the answers. I doubt you'll find anyone who does. But we'll work with what we've been given for the time being.
I will make this preface: the fact that evangelicals are not alien to you may either be helpful or quite the opposite. I'm not into titles and sub-groups and the like. I'm into Jesus. Sometimes that puts me at odds with people who are more interested in the church than in the One we're supposed to be following. But then again, we're all sinners. I've got my own hang-ups.
1. Do you believe that I am going to hell because I do not accept the divinity of Christ?
First, I don't tell anyone where they are headed after death. That's not my call. That's God's call. I believe in hell because it is described in the Bible by Jesus Himself. I accept the divinity of Christ because Jesus made those claims Himself, and if He was lying then He is worthless to us all. How to avoid hell is pretty simple. It's realizing that you are a sinner (like the rest of us). Since you aren't perfect and desire to be in heaven with a perfect God, something's gotta give. That "something" is Jesus who lived perfectly and died. He takes the penalty of death for us, so that positionally we can be found "perfect" before God because we have Jesus' record as our own. (Your interest in law should make this easier to understand!)
So what I see in the Bible is that your eternal destination is based upon your relationship, not upon what you believe. That said, if your relationship is strong, then your belief will be brought toward the truth, just as my relationship with my wife became stronger the more time I got to spend with her during our dating days.
2. Do you believe that every word of the Bible is true? What about the parts that contradict one another?
Yes, every word is true. Please remember that the Bible was not written in English, but in Hebrew and Greek and occasionally things are "lost in translation" so to speak. The words in the original languages are true. As to contradictions, many people have tried to show me these, but their explanations don't wash. Even in the days when I was looking for any excuse to disbelieve the Bible, they didn't seem like contradictions, but the same story told by different witnesses. I'd be happy to look into any contradictions you may wonder about though.
One caution though, every word in the Bible is not meant to be taken literally. The earthly authors of Scripture use figures of speech freely, as does Jesus. Christ called Himself the door, but He was not made of wood, nor did He have hinges allowing Him to be shut!
3. What is your ultimate authority on the fact that the Bible is divinely inspired?
Oooh. Good question. Here is what I have found in short. First, books from antiquity exist only in copies of the originals. The works of Homes, Julius Caesar, etc. are available to us in pieces and copies of manuscripts. If a written work has 500 copies or pieces of copies around today for us to look at, critics have no problem agreeing that the copies we have are an accurate copy of what was originally written. Julius Caesar's works have a little more than 500 copies or partial copies extant today. The Bible has tens of thousands of copies extant today. So the manuscripts we have today are faithful to the originals 100 percent.
Second, archaeological discoveries have confirmed the details which are written about in the Bible, even though the overwhelming sentiment among scientists had been that the Bible's information was wrong. The Bible has not been disproven archaelogically despite many efforts to do just that. Simon Greenleaf and Josh McDowell are two who went digging to disprove the Bible and instead were convinced of it's accuracy.
Third, the Bible is filled with prophecy. The last portions of the Old Testament are filled with prophetic utterances detailing the futures of pretty much every nation in the Middle East at that time. Those prophecies came to pass. And archaeological dating has proven that these were not "hindsight prophecies" - in other words they were not predicted after they happened. Most of the time in fact, a couple hundred years passes between prophecy and fulfillment.
Of course Jesus was not only prophecied about, but He also made some prophecy Himself. All the prophecies of the coming Messiah were fulfilled in Jesus - even the ones He could not have fulfilled "on purpose". Plus it was Jesus who predicted the fall of the temple in Jerusalem, which was an unthinkable event at the time. That temple fell in 70 A.D. Those are just a few examples.With all this (and more) going for it, the inspiration of the Bible must be supernatural in origin. That pretty much leaves it to God. That is what proves it to me.
4. Does God offer only one path to salvation? If so, what about all those people in the non-Christian world? Did God allow their creation so that they can go to hell?
Jesus says that no one comes to the Father but through Him. Now I'm not one to argue with Jesus. So then we have to deal with what God does for these people.
Your last question under #4 is an interesting one. In effect God allows everyone's creation so that they can choose for themselves where they end up. God, being God, knows what we will choose. So He is fully aware that many will not choose Him. But He gives US the choice.
What about those who have never heard? First of all, God is a fair God and a just God. Paul explains in Romans that God gave us all certain signs to point us to Him. One sign is creation itself. The fact that there is so much beauty and design is supposed to point us to God. Another sign is our conscinece. We have been given a sense of right and wrong within us. Paul calls it "the law written on our hearts." We may learn to ignore conscience, but it remains.Now these signs should push us toward seeking God... the One who created us and everything else, and the One who gives us a sense of right and wrong. The Bible says that if we seek, we will find. In other words, if creation and conscience cause a person to seek God, God will provide more light. I beleive that many missionary journeys have been answers to prayer for people who were seeking God but didn't know where to look. God keeps His promises.
I also fully realize that it is very easy for us to be lazy and not seek God even though evidence is around us, opting instead for any other explanation to avoid dealing with Someone bigger than us. But that's all part of the choice He gives us. The rest is up to us. And in a sense, it's tougher to seek Christ in a country like the US, where churches are in every town. Americans hear a little about Christ, find something offensive, and run the other way without all the evidence. That's why I admire your search. You're trying to get the evidence.
There. That's the short version! Seriously, I'm up for any clarifications or challenges or whatever you'd like.
That same deal extends to anyone reading this post. Feel free to ask questions or make challenges.