According to some estimates, there are about 2.1 billion Christians in the world, or around a third of the world’s population. Whether you are a Christian questioning your faith or simply curious about the world’s largest religion, you’ve probably asked yourself: how can we know if Christianity is true?
Before answering this question we first need to deal with the superficial retorts: “No one knows that,” “It’s a big mystery,” “Take it on faith!” If you come to those conclusions after doing a serious, sustained search, that’s one thing. But if you start with those conclusions in order to avoid taking the time to properly research such a significant question, well… simply put, that’s intellectually lazy.
The truth is, there’s a fairly simple and obvious method for investigating religious claims:
1. Establish what the religious claims are.
2. Ask the adherents of these beliefs why they believe them to be true.
3. Reflect on the evidence and reasons for yourself.
4. Come to the best conclusion you can.
This process leads us to another question: what does Christianity teach?
Of course, there are many answers to this question. But why not just read the Bible for yourself? I’d recommend that you start with the Gospels, and then read the rest of the New Testament. Next, read the Psalms and Proverbs, and then the rest of the Old Testament. If you buy a Bible with good notes, like the ESV Study Bible, you’ll have some guidance for understanding the culture and context of each book.
Second, join a church. A church is an obvious place to search for God. Becoming friends with people who claim to love and follow Jesus will give you good opportunities to ask questions and get answers. However, you need to know that just because the name on the building has “Church” or “Jesus” doesn’t mean it will be a spiritually healthy place. Look for a community that:
- Focuses on worshiping God.
- Takes the Bible seriously.
- Is full of basically loving, generous, humble, and kind people.
- Has a real care for the poor.
- Welcomes your questions and involvement.
Third, you will benefit from reading a book that explains the Christian faith. I’d recommend trying The Prodigal God by Tim Keller or Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.
Fourth, if you’re the kind of person who wants to read the fine print, to look over a condensed summary of what Christians believe, you could read the Lausanne Covenant, a statement of faith recognized by Christians from hundreds of denominations all around the world.
So why think that these beliefs are true?
The next step, as you begin to understand what Christians believe, is to understand why those claims are accepted. The best place to start is by asking friends and pastors at the church you join, “So, why are you a Christian? Why believe that Jesus is God?” You can expect some terrific conversations to come out of these questions!
In addition, there are dozens of excellent books that give reasons for the truth of Christianity. You might want to start with The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, God is Great, God is Good, edited by William Lane Craig and Chad Meister, or The Reason for God by Tim Keller, as these are particularly thoughtful, well-written books. As you investigate, you need to pay particular attention to the historical evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus, which is the most important Christian belief.
If you feel comfortable doing so, you could try praying. Say, “God, please reveal yourself to me, if you exist.” You can say it out loud or just think it. If God is there, the Christian conviction is that God will hear your prayer, and respond to your desire to meet him. This isn’t a magic trick, but it is something that ‘works’ when we are sincerely seeking God.
Coming To A Decision
Ultimately, the decision to become a Christian is one that involves all of who you are: your heart, your mind, your soul, and your strength. The process is like choosing to marry someone. First you flirt, then you go on a date, then you start to really get to know each other, at some point you meet their family, and finally, you realize that you can’t help but marry this person!
When you’re thinking about marriage, it isn’t enough to have lots of data and evidence suggesting someone would be a good spouse, though it is wise to have some reasons to get married. And it isn’t enough to ‘be in love’, though an affection for them and a desire to serve them is essential to a long and happy marriage. Marriage requires more than data and feelings: it takes commitment.
Becoming a Christian is a similar but more important decision. To trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, and to gratefully respond to God’s love for you, is the biggest decision anyone can make. To choose to worship and love God, and live according to His plan for your life, simply changes everything. It makes sense that you will look for high-quality information, the best arguments and reasons, and have some desire for God before you commit your life to Him.
This is a serious process. So be encouraged. In your search to find God, the Bible teaches that God is already seeking after you (Luke 19:10).