ChurchETHOS

Northeastern University Religious Panel

Posted in uncategorized by Nathan Creitz on January 24, 2006

I am preparing for a religious panel for this Thursday at Northeastern University where I will be the spokesperson for the Christian worldview. I’m not sure what other religions are participating in this discussion, but I know that I will have about five minutes to share my perspective and when everyone on the panel has given a description of his or her religious beliefs, we will field questions from the audience. I will write out some of my thoughts here for your critique, though I won’t be using notes or anything. This will be a rather lengthy post and I might follow up some more tomorrow, who knows:

“I would like to summarize my experience with Christianity and, in the short time that I have, attempt to make a case for Christianity as a viable world religion that should not be rejected simply because you may or may not like the teachings of the Bible.

First of all, I ask that you reserve judgment until you have heard the case for Christianity. I understand the arguments against Christianity include the belief that historically the Church gave us the dark ages, the Inquisition, the Crusades, and other atrocities. Many of you probably believe Christians are close-minded and intolerant. You believe Christianity to be outdated and archaic. Jesus is thought to be a moral figure, but it would have been impossible for Him to actually be brought back to life and consider Himself to be the Son of God.

It is my belief that no Christian will ever be as pure and righteous as Jesus Christ himself and so, for the sake of brevity, I want to disregard the mistakes made by Christ’s representatives and just focus on Jesus Christ Himself. Mohandas Gandhi believed that, “If all Christians acted like Christ, the whole world would be Christian.”

I have come to trust that God created the universe. At the beginning of time, the newly created earth was perfect with no suffering or chaos. The first man and woman walked with their creator God in the cool of the day just as close friends walk together. God gave them one command, not to eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There was no other evil in the universe. God gave them that one command. If they rejected His will, He told them, they would surely die. The choice was theirs to obey, or to reject His will, and Adam and Eve, the first humans, gave in to their temptation to do the only thing forbidden to them.

This craving to do what God commands not to do is called temptation and the giving in to that temptation is what the Bible calls sin. This same craving is in all of us and the rejection of God is a universal trait. Therefore, we have a problem called universal sin. All of us are separated from God, not because He rejected us, but because we rejected Him. Through the sins of Adam, sin, death, disease, and suffering entered the universe and humanity has been groaning under it ever since.

God, being perfect, all-knowing, ever-present, and eternal cannot entertain sinful, imperfect, mortal beings in His presence. Whereas before, God walked with Adam and Eve, because of their sin and subsequently our sin, God cannot walk with us in fellowship. Since He is all-knowing, He knew this would be the case and, beyond all reason, desiring to be in fellowship and relationship with His created beings, God, from the very beginning established a way for us to re-enter into a relationship with Him. The penalty for Adam’s sin and for my sin is death. Not just physical death, but eternal separation from God in a place called Hell. So, from before time His plan was to send His perfect, sinless Son, Jesus Christ to die in my place. Then, through the power of Jesus’ miraculous resurrection from the dead, we also can gain victory over death and hell by asking God’s forgiveness in the name of His Son Jesus. We are at His mercy and we didn’t deserve it.

What makes this unique is that God’s plan for redeeming sinful humanity conflicts with humanity’s religious attempts to redeem themselves. Many people talk about a figurative mountain upon which God is sitting waiting for us to get to Him. All the religions of the world are taking various paths to get to Him. All are different, but all are on the same mountain with the same desire to get to God or gods, whoever he or she or they might be. Mostly, those paths are paved with our works, our good deeds, our morality, etc.

The mistake is assuming that God is just sitting there waiting on us to come to Him. If you are trying to do everything you can to get to Him, stop now because there’s nothing you can do. He is perfect, you are not. He is immortal, you are not. He is sinless, you are sinful. You cannot come into His presence no matter how good you are. We have tried to make God into our image of what He is supposed to be. Selfishly, we desire Him to take any form that we superimpose on Him and expect God to live up to our expectations of Him. Whatever we desire to do, whatever is good for me, whatever works for me, is what will lead me down the path that supposedly leads to God.

Instead, God is not sitting at the top of a mountain hoping we will scratch our way to the top. He made it possible for us to actually experience Him now! He wants us to be His adopted sons and daughters. Rather than humanity worshipping a God made in their image. We can worship a God that made us in His image. Rather than doing everything we can and at the end of our life realizing it’s not enough, God did everything that needed to be done so that we could walk with Him in fellowship even in this life. It’s not possible to get to Him on our own merit, that’s why faith is the means by which we can know God. If it were up to my own merit, then there would be no reason for Jesus to have died and for God to raise Him from the dead. If I could just be a good person, then Christianity would be the only religion that doesn’t make sense. No one would have come up with Christianity as the means to God. The myriad religions and worldviews tell us that when it’s up to us to try and climb the mountain, I will just be a good person or pray a couple of prayers each day and, if I remain true to myself, that will be enough to obtain God. Only God would have invented the plan that is given to us in the Bible.

Far from being intolerant or narrow-minded, authentic Christians believe that, everyone of us is in the same condition. We are separated from God. It is hopeless to try and get to God. All we can do is ask His forgiveness and trust that Jesus is who He says He is. The death of God through His Son Jesus was the only deed that could ever bring me back into relationship with God. Jesus the immortal sacrificed His high position as God to come and live among us humans, live a sinless life, die in our place, and come back to life in victory over death and suffering.

GK Chesterton said, “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” I believe that as I have studied other religions, I have done this very thing. There is no use in being open-minded if we never discover truth. I’m not intolerant of your beliefs, I just want to share with you what I believe God’s plan is for humanity. There are those who reject Christianity and hate me for my beliefs and I wonder, so who’s being intolerant? If God offering His mercy and grace to a sinful people that don’t deserve anything but death from Him and requiring that the only way to know Him is through His Son Jesus, if that’s close-minded and intolerant to you, then there’s nothing more we can discuss in this format.

Finally, everything you have heard or will hear from any of my distinguished colleagues on this panel comes in direct contradiction of Christianity, and in some cases, with each other. The law of non-contradiction that is proven in the fields of philosophy and science tells me that two completely contradictory statements can’t both be true. It is unacceptable to say, it’s okay for me to worship God in my own way as a Christian and I will worship Him in my own way as a Hindu. It’s either one or the other and you have to seek that out for yourself. God Himself said, You will seek me and find me if you search with all of your heart. Many of us aren’t devout in any religion because it’s hard to leap completely into a faith that you don’t completely trust. I have staked my entire life on the claims of Christ and I trust Him because my reason has never contradicted my faith. As illogical as Christianity may sound to the rest of the world, I have never encountered anything to shake my faith.

As I said before, Christianity calls to mind the Crusades and even the bombings of abortion clinics and that is the burden I must bear of being lumped in together with everyone who calls themselves a Christian. You have to weigh the infallible claims of Christ, rather than the failures of humans. The Bible has been misinterpreted, misquoted and misrepresented. Within Christianity there are disagreements and mistakes. The person of Jesus is the one you must study to discover if what I am saying is true.”

—Well, that’s a lot of stuff and I will summarize that in my five minute talk on the religious panel. Any thoughts?—

Boston (42° 21′ , -71° 7′)

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8 Responses

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  1. joe kennedy said, on January 24, 2006 at 10.23 pm

    Yeah I wish I could just send you all the apologetics notes I just got from Dr. Stewart. Not for you to use them DURING the panel necessarily, because this isn’t the time to “evangelize” per se, but maybe for you to have some thoughts in mind while the others speak.

    I just like knowing where other people are coming from. Especially during question and answer time.

  2. Anonymous said, on January 25, 2006 at 10.44 am

    I’m thinking that you should reconsider your next to last paragraph (about everyone else being wrong). Check ‘Mere Christianity’, where Lewis makes the point that there are points of agreement between Christianity and other religions. He said it is like doing an arithmetic problem; some answers are closer than others (and Christianity got it right).
    – Ron Troup

  3. nathan said, on January 25, 2006 at 1.19 pm

    You are right Ron. Thanks for the comment. I really just wrote what I believe, not what will necessarily be said. I do believe that some religions have got it close, but the problem with the wrong answer is that it leads to death and sometimes stating the truth is the only thing that someone will hear to realize they can’t continue in their path that seems close enough.

  4. Scott Slayton said, on January 25, 2006 at 2.08 pm

    I think that your comments are outstanding. You rightly point out the exclusivity of the gospel while showing that this should not create pride because we have all sinned. I also think that you handled the issue of the Crusades really well. One of our most difficult issues is dealing with all of the things that have been done under the banner of “Christianity.”

  5. Misty said, on January 26, 2006 at 11.51 am

    What an amazing opportunity! I think you are right on, Nathan. I’ll be praying for you today.

  6. Angela said, on January 26, 2006 at 12.51 pm

    Nathan sounds like a great oppurtunity and even though this may be a little late in coming I will be praying for you!! I agree with what you said above about stating the truth-I think we so often try to sugar coat what we know is wrong and I know I do-I pray the Holy Spirit will lead you!!

  7. nathan said, on January 26, 2006 at 6.11 pm

    Thanks everyone for the encouragement. I just returned from the discussion and it went really well. Huge answer to prayer. I was able to talk with a couple of people afterwards about my faith and about church. I hope to chat with them some more in the weeks ahead. I will blog a follow up post later on tonight. I am now going to meet a friend that is agnostic.

    Scott, I got your email and I will reply soon. I’ve been very busy this week getting ready to travel some next week.

    Even though the panel is over, anyone is free to continue posting comments on this topic. I would love to hear your thoughts.

  8. Ragan said, on January 30, 2006 at 8.12 pm

    wow nathan, i get such a blessing out of reading your stuff and i learn a bit on the way. it encourages me so much. thanks for walking the walk!
    i am really glad it went so well, i can’t imagine what God did through you on that day. wow! He is awesome!


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