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An appeal to Jon Steingard of Hawk Nelson

Jon – You and I don’t know each other, but I read your Instagram post where you declared that you no longer believe in God. While you gave reasons for your decision, you also said this:

(Courtesy of Robin Schumacher)
(Courtesy of Robin Schumacher)

I’m open to the idea that God is there. I’d prefer it if he was. I suspect if he is there, he is very different than I was taught. I know my parents pray that God reveals himself to me. If he’s there, I hope he does.

You and I both know that preferring and hoping something is real doesn’t make it so, but in this instance, there’s good news. I’ll do my best to explain why that’s the case and promise not to get preachy in the process.

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To begin, since you’re doubting the whole of Christianity, I’d like for you to consider that – at least in your Instagram post – you’re not asking the right questions.

You mention quite a few things including the problem of evil, questionable actions of God in the Old Testament, biblical inerrancy, translations of the Bible from the original languages, and miscellaneous things like the role of women and hair braiding.[1] Have you considered that none of those things have any bearing whatsoever on whether Christianity is true?

If you’re going to call into question all of Christianity, then you need to examine the three foundational claims of the Christian faith which are:

1.     God exists
2.     Jesus exists
3.     Jesus rose from the dead

You must dismiss these three truth claims and concern yourself with nothing else (at least for now) if you want to walk away from Christianity. Let me quickly work through what I mean.

For example, just because you can’t square God and evil at the moment doesn’t mean that a transcendent Creator who brought everything that we know into being doesn’t exist. And this might be a shocker, but you don't need to reference the Bible to have confidence in this fact.

You heard me right – you don’t need your Bible for this one.

Both science and general philosophy agree that the idea of a Creator makes sense. Without God, we need to answer how an impersonal, non-conscious, meaningless, purposeless, and amoral universe accidentally created personal, conscious, moral beings who are obsessed with meaning and purpose. I haven’t found anyone able to successfully do that yet.  

Using the general scientific principle of cause and effect, you’ll find it’s highly probable and reasonable to conclude that any first cause represented by the effects we see is personal (defined as ‘having intent’), moral, timeless, changeless, immaterial, intelligent, and incredibly powerful.

Again, you don’t need to open your Bible to reach a conclusion on those things or that such a position is more plausible than trying to argue for all of existence coming from a non-eternal universe made up of only mindless matter.

Then we come to our second truth claim, which is that Jesus exists. On this point, I’ll ask for some grace and assure you that I’m not doing an appeal-to-authority; I simply don’t know how to say it any better than Duke’s Historian Dr. E. P. Sanders: “There are no substantial doubts about the general course of Jesus’ life: when and where he lived, approximately when and where he died, and the sort of thing that he did during his public activity.” 

Go ahead and toss the doctrine of biblical inerrancy aside for now; that doesn’t matter at this point. The biblical biographies and external / non-biblical historical evidence leave no room for assertions that Jesus didn’t exist or that the events chronicled in his biographies aren’t grounded in history.

Which brings us to our third foundational truth claim – that Jesus rose from the dead. This is a big one because a still-dead Jesus falsifies Christianity.

But here’s an interesting fact: in the same way all educated historians believe Jesus of Nazareth existed, they also agree on the base events of His resurrection. Again, we don’t need biblical inerrancy for this; all we need is reasonable assurance that the New Testament authors got their history right. And historians say that they did.

That Jesus was crucified under Pontus Pilate, that He was buried, that His body went missing three days later, that reports of Him appearing to various individuals and groups began circulating, and that all His disciples except one were martyred for proclaiming His resurrection are not disputed by learned historians – Christian or non. Of course, what they disagree on is what caused those events.

There are lots of good books that work through all the different hypotheses of the resurrection and I can point you to some of the better ones if you like.

So, Jon, in my opinion, these are the things with which you need to wrestle. If you’re going to completely walk away from Christianity, you’re going to need good reasons for saying a Creator God doesn’t exist, that Jesus never existed or wasn’t who He claimed to be, and that His resurrection didn’t happen.

And sure, I get your issue with God and evil. I watched my young wife die in front of me many years ago, so that problem is one I’ve dealt with at a very personal level. But here’s something I’d like you to consider.

Scientists don’t toss their discipline as a whole into the trash because they can’t explain every question they have at the moment. Instead, they stand firm on their foundations and keep digging. Since Christianity’s foundations stand firm, that’s what I recommend you do.

One last thing … and I question as to whether I should bring it up, but I have too strong an inclination to let it slide. With you now proclaiming your disbelief in God, you will have many people come along side you and say how you and they are exactly alike. You will find strong encouragement and comfort in what these and others tell you; they will make you feel accepted and safe.

Whenever I see this happening, it always makes me think back to a guy who came to Christianity out of another worldview. He said the people of that belief system were warm and loving, but I’ll never forget what he said right after: “They would have loved me right into hell.”

I bring this up only to say that the things you’re wrestling with have eternal implications, and eternity is a long time to be wrong. Don’t take this as a threat – I mean actually the exact opposite. I don’t want you to miss any of the wonderful things God has for you, both in this life and the next.  

Jon, I hope I’ve given you some things to consider. If you want to talk one-on-one, you can reach me via Christian Post or through LinkedIn. God bless you my friend!  

[1] All of these issues have both intellectually and emotionally satisfying answers and have been addressed by many solid Bible teachers. For example, William Lane Craig handles the problem of evil well in his book, Hard Questions, Real Answers; Paul Copan deals with questions about God in the Old Testament in his book, Is God a Moral Monster?; Mark Roberts addresses questions about Bible translations and their trustworthiness in his book, Can We Trust the Gospels?; and John MacArthur’s New Testament commentary series does a great job of discussing the cultural and descriptive aspects of the New Testament (e.g. women’s dress) vs. prescriptive teaching.      

Robin Schumacher is a software executive and Christian apologist who has written many apologetic articles, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at various apologetic events. He holds a Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament.

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