My friend, Seraphim Hamilton, has prepared an outstanding list of reasons he believes in Christianity–not just as the true faith, but as the story of reality. He’s given me permission to reprint them here in full:
Somebody asked me why, given the inference to design, I held Christian theism to be superior. This is my response.
The inference to design is not going to carry a person all the way to Christianity. Personally, I am very impressed by a consilience of phenomena and evidence that drives home the point for me:
1.) The rational intelligibility of the universe to man, which indicates a natural correspondence between human nature and the creation, which seems to imply a unique relationship between the mind which designed the world and the mind which apprehends its design. That we apprehend the world through language coheres at a deep level with Christianity. In other words, I see the Logos and our creation in His image as the precondition for the intelligibility of anything at all.
3.) Evidence that ethical monotheism, not polytheism, was the original faith of man. That this is the case is evidenced not only by remnants of transcendental monotheism in civilized cultures, but by the correlation of ethical monotheism with people groups who have demonstrably preserved a much earlier form of human culture.
4.) Attributes shared among all ancient traditions indicating the truth of the biblical testimony concerning man. Almost all cultures have a story of the creation, a fall into corruption, a global flood, and a tower or tree at which the world’s nations and languages were born. When one carefully studies the primary sources and their historical context, it is evident that both “floods happen everywhere” (which only goes for the flood stories, anyway) and “missionary influence” completely fail at explaining why this is the case unless the traditions preserve a common historical core.
5.) Attributes shared among all or almost all ancient religious practices– such as temples, sacrifice, and priesthood– indicating the truthfulness of the biblical witness concerning the worship of early man. Present anthropological models for the origin of sacrifice and similar problems are ad hoc and unbelievable.
6.) The pervasive presence of language throughout the world. Both mathematics and the genetic code have extensive linguistic properties, both lower-order information corresponding to letters and higher-order emergent properties of information (such as those being discovered by epigenetics) corresponding to paragraphs and books. Christianity proclaims that the world is made out of the Logos of God, and linguistic properties which inhere in the world reveal a deep concord between Christian theism and science.
7.) The deep coherence of Scripture. This was not persuasive to me until I spent a good deal of time learning the symbolic and typological patterns running through the Bible. I learned from excellent teachers, such as James Jordan and Peter Leithart. It is impossible for me to unsee what I have seen. Oftentimes an exegetical key from an obscure passage of Leviticus will unlock a door inIsaiah, which will shed light on Matthew, which will shed light on Revelation, which will feed back into John’s Gospel, and so on. There is a deep interconnectedness to Scripture. It behaves as a majestic work of literary art designed by a single Artist.
8.) The interlocking necessity of Christian presuppositions. Here’s what I mean. If one tries to compromise Christian presuppositions on one area, one will find that it starts to break other areas. One of my favorite examples has to do with chronology. Five millennia from now, the notion that ancient historians nailed the chronology (based on very fragmentary evidence) within a century of beginning the project will appear laughable. We don’t realize how young academia is. The conventional chronology of the ancient world is far too long to conform to the biblical chronology. The chronologies of various ancient cultures are keyed into a 2600 year chronology for ancient Egypt.
Here’s the problem. Every ancient historian who gives a length for Egyptian civilization gives it about 1600 years. This goes for Herodotus as well as Josephus, so this is not merely derived from the chronology of the Bible. They had access to many more primary sources than we do. Christians who have attempted to compromise on ancient chronology have discovered that evidence for the biblical history is thin on the ground, and attempts to defend biblical history within the framework of the conventional chronology are laughable. But when you readjust the chronology (and there are secular scholars who are blowing the whistle on this, too), you find that the biblical text locks right in: the distribution of remains in Sinai at Early Bronze III conform precisely to the itinerary of Israel in Exodus-Numbers in the wilderness, and EBIII is followed immediately by destruction layers in the cities conquered in Joshua. Also at this time in history (I’m for folding EB3 with MB2 for reasons relating to the correlation of stratigraphy with Egyptian chronology) Egypt collapses and are invaded by the Hyksos (whom I identify with the biblical Amalekites Israel meets on the way out of Egypt). There’s much more I could add.
9.) The historical argument for the resurrection. At the very least. the New Testament is a collection of documents penned in the first-century, many of which are very close to the events they purport to describe, and many of which provide independent testimony. The differences (though not contradictions), for example, between the four accounts of the resurrection in the gospels indicates that they are independent, but they converge on key facts such as the Empty Tomb. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 is Paul’s quotation of a Christian confession going back to three years of Jesus’ death and the early Jerusalem church led by Jesus’ disciples, and it describes the most witnesses in the whole NT. As a matter of history, one has to explain why Christianity was born and took the shape that it did.
N.T. Wright describes, in his “The Resurrection of the Son of God” several key mutations in Jewish belief which are true across the board in early Christian belief:
a.) Resurrection of the dead moves from the periphery to the center.
b.) The Messiah is said to be raised from the dead in the middle of history.
c.) The nature of the resurrection body becomes clear, not purely ethereal nor physical as we are familiar with it, but transphysicality, a body continuous with its present form but acquiring new properties.
d.) Resurrection ceases to be a metaphor for the return from exile and becomes a metaphor for conversion, where a person is joined to Christ (in which the restoration from exile took place, according to apostolic exegesis of the OT).
e.) The task of the people of God is to collaborate with God in building the kingdom which has now been realized instead of being entirely in the future.
When we see a new set of beliefs such as this, we ought to ask what a parsimonious explanation is. In this case, the obvious answer is that Jesus was raised from the dead in a glorified body. In conjunction with all the other arguments that indicate we live in a Christian theistic cosmos, there is no reason to desperately try to find an alternative explanation.
10.) The coherence of unity and diversity in the world. I am one person, but my parts mutually constitute and enrich each other. One forest is constituted by the mutual interaction of many trees. The present only acquires its context in the past and future. Christianity is unique in positing the Trinity, apart from which this all becomes unintelligible. I am not suggesting an absolute identity between this sort of unity-in-diversity and the Trinity (after all, persons are not parts). What I’m doing is saying that the very concept of “one” and “many”, their distinction and their relationship is completely opaque unless the joint-reality of “one” and “many” is eternal and transcendent.
It is thus an ensemble of diverse and varied arguments which converge on a single point. I focused on those things which uniquely point to Christianity, but I would add a few extra points for theism in general:
11.) The peculiar utility of mathematics is impossible to explain if mathematics is a human construct. That such a thing is true indicates both the reality of a transcendent realm of necessity and the human capability to access this realm.
12.) Aesthetic truths. That aesthetics is present in mathematics and that aesthetic pleasure is positively correlated with theoretical truth indicates the objectivity of beauty, which is impossible to account for apart from the transcendent.
13.) Contingency. The world does not have to exist, but it does. Even if I had nothing else to go on, I would be a theist because of this. If you abandon the principle of sufficient reason (that everything has an explanation for its existence), it will naturally knock out all other canons of rationality by implication. Contingency implies something which is not contingent. We are all familiar with necessary objects in the form of numbers and mathematical truths. There is no possible world where 1+1 does not = 2. But abstract objects cannot cause anything, so explaining the existence of contingent things requires us to predicate necessity of a person, whom we call God. Abstract objects such as numbers exist in the mind of God, which explains both their existence and their necessity.
14.) Nonmaterialistic mental phenomena that have been documented by parapsychology. The evidence is so strong that even some dogmatic materialists have admitted openness to this idea- Sam Harris and Carl Sagan among them. The dismissiveness presented by charlatans like James Randi substitutes for real argument. For details, see Damien Broderick’s “Outside the Gates of Science” and Chris Carter’s “Parapsychology and the Skeptics.”
Materialistic accounts of mind are bankrupt, and absolutely everything we observe, think, and say requires mind. This is a deathblow to materialism.
The more I think about anything at all, the more I am impressed by how much Christianity explains and how much light it sheds on any topic whatsoever. Pick up any philosophy paper or read any book dealing with contemporary problems in philosophy, and you’ll find something odd. Contemporary “problems” in philosophy are not problematic in absolute terms. After all, nobody knew that there was a “hard problem” of consciousness until a century or two ago. Nobody felt the need to conjure up a constructivist or fictionalist account of mathematics (while still arguing for their utility in the equations describing the structure and behavior of the cosmos!) five centuries ago. All of these “problems” are simply the artifact of materialism.
Posit theism, specifically Christian theism, and they go away.
I get that much/most Christian apologetics is half assed. Heck, ten years ago I was on the verge of losing my faith. The best apologetic arguments come from those who don’t make a career out of it. The best apologetic arguments come from those who apply Christianity to all of thought and life because it is philosophically productive to do so. The immense intellectual fruit this bears is the best defense of Christianity.