The Only Question That Actually Matters
Bono, Schaeffer, and the fruit of existential doubt.
With Easter behind us, I thought I would continue reflecting on the question, “Is Christianity a mere philosophy among many philosophies, or is it actually true?
I don't know about you, but I think it's disingenuous to dedicate entire seasons of the calendar to something I don't actually believe in (i.e., Christmas, Easter, etc.). So I'm hoping that the things I share here will connect with people who, like me, are after the truth even more than a sentimental ‘holiday spirit’ or sentimental feeling that may or may not be anchored in time/space history.
As you might guess, I have already resolved this question in my own heart and thinking. I hope that one way or another, the things I share here will help you find some resolve as well.
It is good sometimes to begin with a quote from Bono:
The secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook…either Christ was who He said He was, the Messiah, or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson…I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched…So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question.
It is also good to consider Francis Schaeffer.
Several years into his career as a Presbyterian minister, Schaeffer began having serious doubts about his Christian faith. His doubts were triggered by a growing concern over how poorly the Christians he knew treated each other, especially in areas of disagreement. He witnessed a lot of negativity and faultfinding, as well as backbiting, gossip, manipulation, power plays, and underhandedness among his fellow ministers. Schaeffer wrestled deeply with the question of how ministers could be so uncompromising about the Bible and its teachings about the grace, love, kindness, and forgiveness of God, yet be so harsh and ugly in their personal lives. It was out of this disillusionment that he one day confided in his wife Edith:
Edith, I feel really torn to pieces by the lack of reality, the lack of seeing the results the Bible talks about, which should be seen in the Lord’s people. I’m not talking only about people I’m working with…but I’m not satisfied with myself. It seems that the only honest thing to do is rethink, reexamine the whole matter of Christianity. Is it true? I need to go back to my agnosticism and start at the beginning.
Schaeffer spent several months reading and re-reading the Bible. He also immersed himself in philosophy as well as the writings of the major world religions. His goal was to put Christianity to the test, and to see if it could withstand the scrutiny of comparison to every other plausible worldview.
In the end, Schaeffer was brought back to the place where he had started several years before, concluding that there is only one reason to be a Christian. That one reason is not because it seems to make sense, or because it feels good, or because it is beautiful, but rather because it is true.
Because it is true.
Now until the end of time, this will be the only question that ultimately matters.
So what do you think? Is it true?