Is Christianity Evil?

For many people in our culture, this is an extremely offensive symbol. For Christians, it's a reminder of the ultimate act of love.

For many people in our culture, this is an extremely offensive symbol. For Christians, it’s a reminder of the ultimate act of love.

Christians are easy targets. Like punching bags that absorb blow after blow, many Christians face ridicule and mockery on a regular basis. Our current cultural milieu is decidedly anti-Christian, so believers are often in the crosshairs of the critics.

Students are often taught about the “evils” of Christianity. We are called haters because we hold to a biblical definition of marriage. We allegedly hate women because we believe that all human life has tremendous value, including the millions of unborn girls that have been killed by abortion. The media often portrays Christians as intolerant, hate-filled, ignorant bigots. Stereotypes and outright lies about Christianity are commonly promoted, and yet, Christians often remain silent and go about their daily lives.

We aren’t perfect. Not by a long shot. There is certainly truth in the cliché, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” We sin. We complain. We gossip. We fight. We lose our tempers. We preach one thing and do another. We divorce. We lie. We’re apathetic. In short, we fail to live as God has commanded us to live.

With the exception of divorce, I’m guilty of all of the above and so much more. I’ve lost my temper with my kids. I’ve gossiped. I’ve whined and complained about situations and people. I’ve been a hypocrite. I’ve lied. I have come up short time and time again.

And yet, despite all of our flaws, I have found time and time again that Christians are the most loving and generous people on the planet. My family has experienced the loving support of our church family and other Christians during our most difficult times.

Within hours of being diagnosed with leukemia in 2006 I was placed on dozens, if not hundreds of prayer lists around the country. Thousands of people prayed for me, and scores of people, including complete strangers, contacted us to ask if there was anything they could do to help. We received cards, letters, gifts, and donations to help cover medical bills—all without asking. (In case you’re wondering, I’ve been cancer free since September of 2006.)

My wife recently underwent endoscopic brain surgery to remove a cyst on her pineal gland that was causing excruciating headaches. In the weeks and months after her surgery, we received more cards, letters, and gifts. We received a stack of gift cards from parents at my son’s Christian school. Many families signed up to bring meals to us for the first month after her surgery. People who didn’t even know each other worked together in unity to make sure all our needs were met. We didn’t ask for these things, but fellow Christians stepped up and did whatever they could to help us out. (She is recovering well and recently walked a half marathon less than three months after surgery.)

But it isn’t just my family that’s been tremendously blessed by Christians. The United States of America has been extremely blessed by Christianity, and so has every other nation on earth. The vast majority of hospitals and orphanages, as well as a large number of schools have been started by professing Christians. The U.S. has long been the leader in charitable donations and various other forms of aid delivered to areas ravaged by natural disasters, and in most cases, Christians lead the way.

Many churches have food and clothing shelters or benevolence funds to help the needy. Crisis pregnancy centers, medical missions, and many other altruistic causes are spearheaded by Christians.

But even more important than meeting the physical needs of the poor and the malnourished, Christians have delivered the gospel of Jesus Christ to millions of people. Why? Because we sincerely believe that we have all sinned against our holy Creator, and those who die in their sin will spend eternity apart from God in a place the Bible calls the lake of fire. And because we love people, we want to warn them about this future and urge them to call on the Lord Jesus to save them from their sins.

We don’t force people to convert. We don’t kill those who reject our God. We don’t revel in the fact that the lost are headed for eternal punishment. We pray for them and look for opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them again. We do this even though we know that we may be laughed at, persecuted, and branded as right-wing, hate-mongering, and child-abusing monsters.

Despite all of the good deeds performed by Christians in efforts to love their neighbors as Christ has loved them, our culture routinely classifies us as being on par with or even worse than Islamic terrorists who have murdered thousands.

We’re not looking for our culture’s approval. In a world that loves darkness rather than light because its deeds are evil, we expect to be hated for doing good. After all, our Lord and Savior was hated for doing good. In fact, He never committed any sin, and He willingly laid down His life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

To learn more about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the vast amount of evidence demonstrating its historicity, see my latest book, In Defense of Easter. Available at www.midwestapologetics.org/shop.

To learn more about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the vast amount of evidence demonstrating its historicity, see my latest book, In Defense of Easter: Answering Critical Challenges to the Resurrection of Jesus.

Think about this. The Christian message is that God sent His Son into the world to save us from our sins. He willingly took our punishment upon Himself on the cross, and then demonstrated the truth of His message by rising from the dead. He commands us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He also commands us to love our neighbors and to love our enemies. In what sort of world could this message possibly be portrayed as evil and hateful? The sad truth is that the answer is right before us. It’s our world.

Nearly all of the good works somehow go unnoticed by our pop culture and media. Instead, despicable groups like Westboro Baptist Church are held up as representative of all Christians. This “church” is mostly from the extended family of the late Fred Phelps, a man who unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for the governorship of Kansas on three occasions. Yet somehow these 40 or so members who hold inflammatory signs and protest military funerals supposedly represent Christianity.

Are we perfect? Not by a long shot. Am I whining about the way we are treated? Not at all. As I mentioned before, we expect it. So why would I write this blog post? One of the reasons is that if you are not a Christian, I want you to stop and think about the Christians you know personally. I’m not talking about that hypocritical parent who made you go to church even though they would rarely go. I’m not talking about the charlatan on television pleading with his audience to send more money so he can buy another private plane. I’m not talking about the guy on the street corner wearing a sandwich board proclaiming “The end is near.” I’m not talking about the immature Christian that called you a name when you debated him or her in an online forum.

Stop and think about the Christians that are in your life—the ones that you have spent a decent amount of time with. What are they really like? Are we really the nasty, angry jerks we are made out to be? Or are we different? Do we show genuine love to neighbor and enemy alike? Do we care about other people? Do we care for the sick and feed the hungry? Have we shared the gospel with you even though you may have rejected it? Do we, in some small ways, give you an accurate picture of what Jesus is like?

But there’s a greater reason that I wrote this post. It gave me an opportunity to tell you about Jesus Christ. Listen, I’ve already admitted up front that Christians will let you down. We’re sinful human beings and we make mistakes on a regular basis. Sometimes we lose our focus. Sometimes our passion for our beliefs gets in the way of treating others with respect. Hopefully, you can be patient with us and see past our faults. But the Son of God will never let you down. He is holy, just, pure, merciful, and loving. He wants you to experience His forgiveness and dwell with Him forever.

No matter what our culture says about Jesus, and no matter how many times Christians fall short of living godly lives, the ultimate reality is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for our sins, rose from the dead, and will one day return in judgment. Those who reject Him will be sentenced to the lake of fire, but those who accept His gracious offer of salvation will be forgiven and dwell with Him eternally. That is not a message of hate; it’s the message of ultimate love.

Reconciling the Post-Resurrection Appearances

In Defense of Easter devotes two chapters to addressing the alleged contradictions in the Bible's Resurrection narratives. This post elaborates on Luke's frequent use of a common practice known as telescoping.

In Defense of Easter devotes two chapters to addressing the alleged contradictions in the Bible’s Resurrection narratives. This post elaborates on Luke’s frequent use of a common practice known as telescoping.

Like seeing mirages in a desert, skeptics of the Bible often see contradictions in the text where no actual contradiction exists. Admittedly, there are many passages that, at first glance, seem to be at irreconcilable odds with other biblical accounts. But just like mirages, these apparent contradictions fade away upon closer examination.

A key to discovering how many of these verses fit together is to understand the nature of how history is written. In determining what to record historians must pick and choose which events to record since no writer could possibly document every detail. This naturally leads to skipping over some points and condensing other details in a practice known as telescoping.

Matthew and Luke

Comparing the Gospels of Matthew and Luke helps reveals that Luke frequently employs this practice. This makes sense, since he likely wrote his Gospel after Matthew and was aware of what Matthew had written. So even though these two Gospels mention many of the same events, there are times when it seems that Luke decided it was unnecessary to include particular details.

The nativity accounts in these two Gospels display clear examples of this practice, which has led to confusion about the timing of the magi’s visit. These same Gospels also telescope details in their Crucifixion records. For example, in Luke 23:24–26, we are told that Pilate sentenced Jesus and delivered him to the soldiers who led Him away to be crucified. Matthew includes the same information, but reveals that after Jesus was delivered to the soldiers and prior to being led to Calvary, He was beaten, mocked, and spat upon (Matthew 27:26–31).

Contrary to the claims of the skeptics, these facts do not contradict each other. In this particular case, Matthew simply included more details about these events than Luke did. Let’s see what role telescoping plays in the accounts of Christ’s appearances.

Luke’s Telescoping of Post-Resurrection Appearances

Each of the Gospels telescopes in their Resurrection accounts, but Luke’s record contains some of the most obvious examples. In telling about the women’s return from the tomb, he compresses several details together, which at first glance seem to state that all of the women traveled to a place where all the disciples, including Peter, were staying.

As telescopes make objects appear closer to the viewer, historians often gloss over or compress details so they can focus on their main point. (Image from beliefnet)

As a telescope focuses in on an object while ignoring peripheral details, historians often gloss over or compress details so they can focus on their main point. (Image from beliefnet)

Failing to understand that Luke is telescoping the events here would lead one to see actual contradictions in the text. Mary Magdalene would have seen the angels on both of her visits to the tomb, yet she almost certainly had not seen them in her first visit—when reporting to Peter and John she seemed to have no knowledge that something supernatural had taken place (John 20:2, 13). Instead, it seems that upon seeing the stone rolled away, she assumed that someone had moved the body, and she left the other women and went to alert Peter and John.

A greater problem is that all of the women who went to the tomb that morning (at least five of them according to Luke 24:10) would have met with the entire group of disciples prior to seeing the risen Lord, yet Matthew plainly states that Jesus appeared to the women as they were on their way to tell the disciples what they had witnessed at the tomb (Matthew 28:8–9).

Luke proceeds by telling of the two disciples who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus before mentioning the appearance to the disciples in Jerusalem. Then, without informing his readers of any change in time, Luke fast forwards 40 days to the Great Commission and Ascension.

Was Luke Mistaken?

Was Luke uninformed or misinformed about these events? Not one bit. In the opening of his Gospel, he explained that he had carefully studied what others had written about the Lord’s work. He certainly knew that 40 days had passed between the first appearance of the resurrected Savior and the Ascension, since he opened Acts by writing about the Lord demonstrated His Resurrection by “many infallible proofs” over a 40-day period (Acts 1:3).

Since he was aware of what Matthew and Mark had written he was able to skip some of the details they mentioned to focus on other points not mentioned or just briefly covered by Matthew or Mark. Luke essentially summarized the Resurrection morning’s activities in Luke 24:1–12. Verses 13–43 detail the appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and then the Lord’s appearance to the group of disciples that night. Then without notifying the reader, he jumps ahead 40 days to the Ascension.

Conclusion

Understanding how history is written provides invaluable assistance in resolving many of the apparent inconsistencies in the Gospel accounts. Ancient writers should not be cast off just because their works do not have all the information we would like. Like the Savior they reveal to us, these “God-breathed” and inerrant writings about the death-conquering Son of God can be trusted in their entirety. We just need to occasionally dig deeper to solve some of the skeptical challenges.

[Added May 15, 2015: This article was originally written to go along with a piece I wrote for Answers Magazine, which is now available online. To see how the events of Resurrection Sunday can be reconciled, please see Christ’s Resurrection—Four Accounts, One Reality.]