While in high school, I was often challenged on my religious beliefs. At the time I felt overwhelmed with all the objections, but I’m now thankful for those who pressed me to find satisfactory answers to their questions. Here are seven common objections that shouldn’t shake your faith.
1. “Could God create a rock so big he couldn’t lift it?”
Normally this flows out of the false belief that “God can do anything.” There are many things God can’t do. He cannot sin, or cease to exist, or do the logically impossible, to name a few! Christian Theists do not believe God “can do anything” but that he is all-powerful. As such, his power cannot be exceeded by anyone or anything.
So, could God create an army of humans so big it could defeat him? Of course not. This is ultimately the same question as that with a rock. God could neither create an army that exceeds his might nor form a rock so big he couldn’t lift it. God cannot create anything that could exceed His might. This only confirms that God is all-powerful and cannot be outdone by any created thing.
2. “If you had been born in another culture or raised in a different family you wouldn’t believe as you do.”
This is a textbook example of the Genetic Fallacy. The fallacy states that because you can show how a belief originated, it is therefore false. However, this does not follow logically. As a comparison, someone may believe that the earth orbits the sun because they read it in an untrustworthy source like a comic book, but that doesn’t show the belief to be false. One may believe something true from a liar or from a trustworthy person. The origin of a belief doesn’t prove the belief true or false. Since this claim does not address Christianity’s core beliefs or evidence, it does nothing to prove Christianity false.
This claim is further weakened by its self-defeating nature: The Christian could lay the exact claim against the atheist who was born to atheist parents in the secular West!
3. “Jesus never existed.”
Even unsympathetic, atheist historians admit that Jesus of Nazareth existed. Furthermore, references to Jesus are found in ancient documents outside of the Bible. The Jewish historian, Josephus, and the Roman historian, Tacitus, among others, wrote about Jesus despite not being Christians. They, like modern historians, believed Jesus of Nazareth was a real person.
4. “The Bible isn’t trustworthy. It’s full of mistakes!”
The Bible accurately describes cultures, people groups, cultural traditions, languages, wars, politicians, geography, meteorology, and more. The texts spanning thousands of years align with the assertions of mainstream historians. Louis R. Gottschalk wrote that “conformity or agreement with other known historical or scientific facts is often the decisive test of evidence, whether of one or more witnesses.” By this standard the Bible is historically reliable. My experience is that people say the Bible is full of mistakes because they presuppose its supernatural accounts are false, not because it has historical errors. The Bible can be full of reports one doesn’t believe, but that is different than being full of mistakes.
5. “Christianity was invented by uneducated fisherman who didn’t even know the earth orbits the sun.”
This is blatant chronological snobbery. The evolutionary subtext of modern thinking has caused us to believe that everything is improving “because of science.” This view often classifies what is old or unscientific as inferior. However, it would be more accurate to understand the world as being in a state of flux: at times, things improve; at times, they deteriorate. L. Russ Bush further describes this history of ideas in The Advancement: Keep ing the Faith in an Evolutionary Age.
I am guilty of chronological snobbery when I choose a colour movie over one that is black and white because I assume the newer is better. However, my snap judgement does not actually determine anything about which movie is greater in quality. In the same way, concluding that the disciples’ beliefs are inferior because they are old or were unscientific does nothing to determine whether the claims are true or not. The core claims of Christianity (namely, that God exists, that Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh, and that he died and rose again to pay for sins) are not addressed, despite being supernatural, spiritual, historical, and philosophical claims – not scientific ones.
6. “I only believe in science.”
The belief that all knowledge comes from science is called scientism. However, there is knowledge that science cannot provide: past events and histories, morality, aesthetic judgements, the trustworthiness of logic, as well as meaning, value, or purpose. Science only tells us what is or what is not advantageous for survival. To say that one believes in science and therefore will not believe in the supernatural is to misunderstand science. This is not a purely Christian perspective. According to University of California Museum of Palaeontology, “Science cannot support or contradict the existence of supernatural entities. It deals only with natural phenomena and explanations.” If one insists on only believing in science, then he or she must be agnostic concerning the supernatural and refrain from making claims about it. Regardless, it’s clear that science has limitations when it comes to knowledge; therefore, one should not “only believe in science.”
7. “Jesus never claimed to be God.”
Journalistic modern culture desires Jesus to make a blatant claim to divinity. However, let’s consider our response to such a claim: we would be skeptical of anyone asserting to be God, just as Jesus’ immediate hearers would have been. Instead, Jesus wisely worked a process of demonstrating his divinity. After three years of one amazing, inexplicable, and life-changing miracle after another, people were asking, “Who is Jesus?”
It’s in the above context that Jesus did clearly claim to be God. He called himself the “I am,” which his audience would have understood as the personal name of God revealed to Moses. Jesus also referred to himself as the Son of Man, a specific allusion to a vision of Daniel in which a son of man (human) was worshipped as God. These are divine claims. His hearers got the point, as evidenced in their attempts to kill him for blasphemy. After doing cultural and historical homework, it becomes clear that Jesus did attest to be God.
The greatest lesson I’ve learned over years of defending my faith is that people often attack a straw man, related issue, or non-central beliefs… and then write off all of Christianity. Focusing conversation on evidence for God’s existence, the claims of Jesus, and proof of his resurrection tends to clear away much of the confusion and produce a conversation worth having.