Richard Dawkins and Ricky Gervais make an argument against Christianity where they try to portray Christianity as provincial and narrow-minded. To quote Richard Dawkins:
(In the unlikey event that) I met God, I think the first thing I would say is, ‘Well which one are you? Are you Zeus? Are you Thor? Are you Baal? Are you Mithras? Are you Yahweh?’
Now this argument is so bad that one can only come to the conclusion that these men are scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for arguments against Christianity. I know Thor and Zeus and Baal comes from the Bible, but who the heck is Mithras?
The fact is that Christianity is so distinctive from other religions that it is far and away the most likely form of theism for a number of reasons. Let us first list them and then discuss them:
- Jesus Christ
- The Flawed Men of the Faith
- The Unique Cross-cultural Impact
- The Jewish Nation
- Compatibility with Science
The God Man Jesus Christ
As I discussed in the Nature of the Atonement, the astonishing act of divine love that Jesus performed on the cross is without parallel in any of the other major religions of the world. Other religions may command people to “be good” and commend faith, but in no other religion does God explicitly reach out to those of us who have blown it and done things which are inexcusable. Given that we live in a sea of people who are selfish and self-centered and do things that most of us would publicly condemn, isn’t it a bit strange that Christianity is the only religion that focuses on flawed people? Given the suffering that we experience in this world, is it not strange that the only God who suffers with us is Jesus Christ?
Not only does Jesus uniquely offer to forgive us our sins by sacrificing himself on our behalf, his teaching marks the birth of egalitarianism in the world. Consider the following verses:
Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. (Luke 8:1-3 ESV)
Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman (John 4:27 ESV)
And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. (Luke 10:39 ESV)
Find another teacher in antiquity who spoke to women, taught women and made them partners in his ministry. Not only that, but his disciples also taught ground-breaking egalitarian principles and women were extremely influential members of the early church:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Can Richard Dawkins and Ricky Gervais name a single religion which is as egalitarian as Christianity? Did Thor or Zeus ever sacrifice himself for human beings? Does Mithras focus on those of us who have fallen short of perfection? These things may not seem important to an avowed atheist, but to me they are powerful evidence for the unique truth of Christianity.
The Flawed Men of the Faith
Aside from Jesus Christ, probably the three most influential men in the Bible are Moses, David and the Apostle Paul. Let us see what the Bible has to say about these men:
He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” (Exodus 2:14 ESV)
Nathan said to David . . . Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. (2 Samuel 12:9 ESV)
And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ (Acts 22:20 ESV)
In what other major religion of the world are three of the most influential leaders condemned as being guilty of murder? The Bible is uniquely honest about the flaws of its saints and founders and this is another way in which it is distinct from other religions.
Just as an aside, let us note that the confrontation between Nathan and David described in 2 Samuel 12 is a significant historical milestone. The Rule of Law is recognized as being one of the most important pillars of modern democratic government. In ancient societies, however, the king was often held to be above the law because he made the law. When Nathan comes to King David and accuses him of violating God’s law, this represents the first example that I know of in human history where a sovereign monarch is held accountable to a universal law by one of his subjects.
Now Richard Dawkins and Ricky Gervais may not find these things to be important or interesting, but to me they are indicators of the truth of Christianity and they are absent from other religions.
Unique Cross-Cultural Impact
Christianity has had the greatest cross-cultural impact of any religion on earth and this is powerful evidence that if God ever reached out to humanity then it was through his Son Jesus Christ. The Bible is the most widely translated book in the world and you can find Christian churches on every inhabited continent of the world. While the statistics on diversity within Christianity are impressive and readily available, it was an experience I had as a graduate student that most impressed upon me the startling diversity of the Christian church.
Some friends of mine and I from a middle class church were having a summer beach party that went into the night. At some point in the early evening, we realized that the next fire over was another group of Christians. These were the Born to Die motorcycle ministry mainly consisting of ex-motorcycle gang members. After talking it over, we decided to worship the Lord together. Being able to have meaningful and enjoyable fellowship with people so entirely different from me had a profound effect on me as a young Christian.
The most striking thing about that experience, however, occurred the next week when a bunch of my church friends and I visited Born to Die. We found pictures of them with a church that had come to Los Angeles on vacation from South Korea. One of the funniest pictures I have ever seen was of a huge biker nicknamed “Bear” standing next to a Harley Davidson motorcycle on which was perched an elderly Korean lady! It is such a blessing to know that I am part of a church that has spanned continents, languages and lifestyles for two thousand years. Can the countless followers of Thor or Zeus or Mithras say the same?
The Jewish Nation
One of the most unique things about the Bible is the Jewish nation that is described as “God’s chosen people”. Starting out as the descendants of a group of patriarchal desert nomads with a history of idol worship, God makes this people into the most advanced and civilized people in the world. Consider what Wikipedia has to say in its article about Jewish Nobel prize winners:
Nobel Prizes have been awarded to over 800 individuals, of whom at least 20% were Jews, although Jews comprise less than 0.2% of the world’s population
This would be impressive enough on its own, but in almost every field of human endeavor from music to comedy, you will find a similarly disproportionate level of Jewish representation at the upper echelons of accomplishment. All this from a nation which has been attacked, persecuted and vilified throughout history. This may not mean anything to Dawkins or Gervais, but it sure sounds like these are God’s chosen people to me.
Compatibility with Science
As elucidated by Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, the Bible gives an account of the creation of the universe that is amazingly similar to the sequence discovered by scientists. There are no sun gods, no titans, no infinite waters, only a being who calls himself I AM creating the heavens and the earth with a sequence of creative acts carried out over 6 periods of time:
- Creation, by fiat miracle, of the entire physical universe (space-time dimensions, matter, energy, galaxies, stars, planets, etc.)
- Planet Earth singled out for a sequence of creation miracles. At its beginning, Earth is empty of life and unfit for life; interplanetary debris and Earth’s primordial atmosphere prevent the light of the sun, moon, and stars from reaching the planet’s surface
- Clearing of the interplanetary debris and partial transformation of the earth’s atmosphere so that light from the heavenly bodies now penetrates to the surface of Earth’s ocean
- Formation of water vapor in the troposphere under conditions that establish a stable water cycle
- Formation of continental land masses and ocean basins
- Production of plants on the continental land masses
- Transformation of the atmosphere from translucent to occasionally transparent. Sun, Moon, planets, and stars now can be seen from the vantage point of Earth’s surface
- Production of swarms of small sea animals.
- Creation of sea mammals and birds
- Creation of three specialized kinds of land mammals: a) short-legged land mammals, b) long-legged land mammals that are easy to tame, and c) long-legged land mammals that are difficult to tame—all three specifically designed to cohabit with humans
- Creation of the human species
As we have seen, Christianity is distinct from every other religion in the world in a number of important ways. Jesus Christ is unique in stressing the availability of forgiveness and procuring that forgiveness for us with an amazing act of divine love. The New Testament is the most egalitarian document in the ancient world. The Bible is uniquely honest about the flaws of the men who wrote it. Christianity has had an enormous impact in countries all over the world for two thousand years. The Jewish nation is an astonishing nation that looks for all the world like God’s chosen people. Finally, the Bible’s account of creation is amazingly close to that discovered by scientists. Only a person who had never seriously considered the issue would ask “Which one are you? Are you Zeus? Are you Thor? Are you Baal? Are you Mithras? Are you Yahweh?'” if they met God. When you meet God, you will know he is Jesus Christ the one and only.