Have Christ and Christianity exerted a positive influence on the development of civilization? Eric Chabot summarizes the evidence that it has, touching on everything from slavery to economics to Medieval church music, and concludes his essay by pointing to an atheist scholar who agrees. What’s the upshot if Chabot is right? Something can be useful and still false, so it wouldn’t prove Christianity true. But recognizing that the Judeo-Christian tradition has benefited civilization, and to a degree unrivaled by any other worldview, should prod one at least to give Christianity a thoughtful hearing.
Discoveries in physics and astronomy offer another reason. In the nineteenth century, the conventional wisdom in cosmology was that the universe had existed eternally, but subsequent discoveries showed that the universe came into existence, and that its physical laws are fine-tuned for life to such a remarkable degree that even skeptical cosmologists refer to this pattern as “the fine tuning problem.” Christianity says that the universe is the purposeful work of an all-powerful God who called the universe into being out of nothing. This story fits the evidence cosmologists have uncovered over the past hundred years.
Once one is open to the possibility of a Creator with power over the physical laws of his Creation, one is a step closer to giving a fair hearing to the historical evidence for the Resurrection. Did the twelve apostles of Jesus suffer torture and death because of their devotion to a falsehood, or did they face such persecution unflinchingly because they knew that Jesus had risen from the dead?
It’s true that the pages of history are filled with hypocritical Christians behaving badly. And it’s true that there are many different religions and many different worldviews, many of them with very appealing qualities. But all of this can be the case and it still be true that Jesus actually rose from the dead because he is the Son of God.
If such a thing is a reasonable possibility, then pray to who and what may be.
To witness a skeptic wrestling in prayer, I recommend British author Graham Greene’s masterful 1951 novel, The End of the Affair. It doesn’t end with a conversion but with a skeptic wrestling with God, angry but asking important questions.