To believe or not to believe - the core of Christianity

Mainstream Christianity is distinctive from all other religions.
Most religions, including Christianity, offer viewpoints and explanations for life's questions. But the "believability" for the non-Judeo/Christian groups is based entirely on the philosophical appeal to each individual. Other than this there is nothing supernatural to connect these other groups to a Supreme Benefactor.

If there were a Supreme Benefactor who enables people to seek Him and offers wise answers to life's questions we would expect there to be some supernatural event that would show to anyone, in any language, any culture, with any level of intelligence, the ultimate answer to life's questions. It would instill not only emotional commitment but offer intellectual reasons for believing. There is such an event and it reveals what God offers and what He asks of us.

Luke 23
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.
   (Why two?)
33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals--one on his right, the other on his left.
34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
   (Would you expect a Supreme Benefactor to hold everyone accountable to the same extent, even if they were ignorant of His priciples?)
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One."
   (He claimed to be the savior of mankind, from God.)
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar
37 and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself."
   (He claimed to be a king.)
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
   (Everyone was aware of Jesus' claim)
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
   (One common skeptical challenges is: if there is such a Supreme Benefactor, why does He not stop evil and the suffering we see)
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence?
   (But one criminal, reasoned . . . )
41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."
   (They both were guilty of crimes, both deserved punishment but they both knew that this Jesus was innocent of all crimes. Yet Jesus willingly went along with the trial and did not defend himself. Why?)
42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. "
   (This criminal knew he was going to die soon, he had nothing to lose. He did not worry about his ego, his pride. No other path offerred any hope. He knew this Jesus was innocent of all charges, had saved others from death and suffering, claimed to be a savior and a king of humankind. While one criminal could not give up his pride and preferred to ridicule Jesus, the other expressed his belief. He believed:

  1. He, himself was a criminal, deserving of punishment
  2. He, himself was going to die
  3. Jesus was absolutely innocent
  4. Jesus claimed to be savior
  5. Jesus claimed to be king
  6. Jesus would die
  7. Jesus would overcome death and could remember this criminal
  8. Jesus would rule as a king in a kingdom
  9. Jesus had the power to raise others from the dead
  10. He, himself had nothing to lose if he professed his belief before other mockers.
  11. He wished that Jesus would be both his savior and his king (master)
43 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
   (Was this enough to satisfy the Supreme Benefactor? Yes, Jesus promised to remember this man, although he had done nothing to earn any special reward. This is the answer to life's question. Is there any justice or fairness in life? Why do some have a miserable life while others do well? Does life have any real meaning, purpose, anything really lasting? Is there hope? Is this hope open to all or only to the righteous or only to those fully informed?)
. . .
46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.
(Any observer, in any culture, in any language, would recognize the suffering and death of this innocent man and wonder. Why would this Jesus do this? Why would the God he believed in permit this?)

Luke 24
2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.
5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?
6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:
7 `The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'"
8 Then they remembered his words.

Death poses the ultimate problem for everyone in every culture, every language. This event gives the final proof of the answer. Unlike other religions, the founder of Christianity taught the ultimate in self-sacrifice and that such is the path to individual salvation. If you were to start a religion, which would make a better world, a religion that teaches self-centeredness or self-sacrifice? But since we all wish to live and resist suicide and try to live, what could possibly convince people to make the ultimate sacrifice?

  • What does it take to convince a person that someone else is truly a Benefactor and is concerned with your well-being and has no selfish motives.
  • What more could someone do?
  • Has any other religious founder done as much?
  • Some religous founders will kill to further their cause, but who lays down his life and teaches all followers to do the same?
  • Who would you be more likely to trust, someone that was selfish or someone that was willing to die to rescue you?