More thoughts on the middle section of the book that explores major challenges to the Christian faith. Here is an excerpt:
Christianity, more than any other religion, is a historic faith that relies on the credibility of its theological formulations and its Scriptures. Christian beliefs are founded on what is believed to be historical facts – not merely myths or moral stories, as some other religions are. This difference is illustrated by an experience that a friend of mine related about his visit to India. During a tour of a religious site, the guide was telling about the elephant god. My friend asked, “Do you really believe there was an actual elephant god?” The guide seemed perplexed by the question and was unable to give a clear answer; his concept of religious truth was very different than my friend’s.
The very nature of Christianity, therefore, makes it vulnerable to attack by those who would try to use its truth claims to prove its untruthfulness. The myth of the elephant god is not threatened by liberal theology or textual criticism. But Christianity, particularly in the modern era, is challenged by its own perceived standard of truth. (page 119)
I appreciated the point Tucker is making here. There is no branch of study called “Bhagavad Gita criticism” – it is not necessary! Christianity is subjected to scrutiny that other religions are not, as it should be with its unique truth claims. Yet, it seems to me, that this scrutiny can be taken too far and pushed to unfair extremes. The immanent and transcendent nature of God – particularly in how God entered this world and lived a human life – presents an unusual situation. History and the Divine intersected at a particular point in time. Secular historians will agree that there was a rabbi named Jesus that developed a following in the first century (etc), but they will not make any statements that this Jesus was God, died for our sins (etc) as that is religious dogma. Divine or supernatural truth claims can’t be examined in the same way as history. But even history cannot be examined in the same way as science. History has receded into the past and can’t be re-created in the science lab for an experiment. (More thoughts on this here.)
I think the point I am getting at is this: While Christianity should be held to a higher standard, it seems that some unfairly want to subject it to scientific like standards. Christianity is put to a test that it could not possibly pass – and other areas could not pass the test either – Such as history, archeology, secular philosophy, politics, metaphysics, and aesthetics. (More thoughts on this here.)
Regarding the unique challenges to Christian faith – Tucker says that Christians have tended to respond to these challenges in one of two ways. One response is to lower the truth standard or reinterpret Christianity so that it is more on level with the elephant god. Yet that is clearly not an option for evangelicals and other orthodox believers. Indeed, if certain key beliefs are explained away, then Christianity is no longer Christianity. But even here Tucker remains gracious. After looking at some ways that liberal Christians have reinterpreted the faith, she states:
If I were being judgmental at this point, I would say…”Make up your mind; fish or cut bait! Be a Christian or be an atheist; don’t muddy the water!” But I know my heart all to well. I’m an evangelical that struggles with doubt and unbelief. Should it surprise me that some would reinterpret the faith rather than bail out of it altogether?… For many whose faith is flagging, however, the only alternative is to abandon faith altogether. They question the honesty of professing faith while harboring serious doubts.
The other response to these challenges is apologetics – attempting to prove the truths of Christianity, or to at least prove that the claims of Christianity are more reasonable than other belief systems. One might think of books of a popular nature by Christians such as Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell. Some find this form of apologetics very effective and helpful.
Yet…I think Christians can end up guilty of a similar thing that I accuse the skeptics of - in how they unfairly apply scientific like standards to Christianity. It seems, to me, that some Christian apologetics can drift into something similar. Consider the book title: “Evidence that Demands a Verdict.” In other words, Christianity has such clear evidence for it, that if you don’t believe you are a dingbat! Uh…have we forgotten about the role of faith? Uh…have we forgotten that there are difficulties that we can’t provide adequate answers for? While there are solid arguments in support of Christian faith, there are compelling arguments against Christian faith too. While I appreciate Christian apologetics and think it has an important role to play in demonstrating that belief in Christianity is rational, I think some of it needs to be injected with a dose of humility.
More to come…