Defending Your Faith 101: Understanding Christianity’s Roots

In his new book, “The American Spirit,” David McCullough observes, “We are raising a generation of young Americans who are by and large historically illiterate.” And in her Wall Street Journal review of the book, Peggy Noonan recounts McCullough’s description of “a bright Missouri college student who thanked him for coming to the campus, because, she said, ‘until now I never understood that the original 13 colonies were all on the East Coast.’”  -From John Stonestreet’s commentary in the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Breakpoint Daily, June 23, 2017

Overview of Christianity’s history and the need for apologetics

Over the next several posts we will take a quick tour of some important events and turning points in Christian history that can help us understand why we need to be trained in Christian Apologetics more than ever. As Christian we should be able to identify error when skeptics, and others, attack the Christian worldview and its historical foundation. If we do not understand the truth about our past then we will be easily deceived in the present.

This scenario is taken from a real life encounter:

A young lady at a dinner party had quite an audience as she gave her views on politics and culture. She was a veteran of the armed forces and an outspoken politician of sorts, highly respected by most of the people there. During her exposition she asserted that “Christianity was just another political group at the time of Jesus and the emperor Constantine had made it the religion of the state.” Another person at the same party claimed that, “Christianity is just a western religious invention, and Islam came into existence first. Most of Christianity’s teachings about Jesus are copied from these older religions anyway.”

Can you spot the errors in these views?

Both people at the dinner party were dead wrong in their knowledge of Christian history and historical timelines. A quick fact check would have proven that in an instant, and a basic knowledge of Christian Apologetics would have corrected the other errors. If a Christian is silent when things like this are said, what damage does that do to others in the room who have not made decisions for Christ? If the historical truths of Christianity are twisted what happens to salvational truths?

Let’s take a quick tour of Christianity’s roots:

Note: If you’ve noticed in recent research, academic historians have now taken Jesus out of history’s dating method

  • BC = before Christ, is now BCE=before common era 
  • AD = anno Domini (Medieval Latin for “in the year of our Lord”), is now CE = common era
  1. BC/BCE:Christianity is rooted in Judaism

Christianity is a middle-eastern religion (not a western invention) rooted in the Jewish faith going back to the creation of the world by God. The Christian Old Testament is the same as the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh). It contains the history of the Jewish Nation, the covenants of God, and hundreds of prophecies of a coming Messiah, fulfilled in Jesus. The Tanakh contains the 37 books of the Christian Old Testament in three groupings: The Law, the Prophets and the Writings. This has not changed over time.

  1. AD/CE Early First Century:Christianity began

Christianity was founded on Jesus, the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, who was crucified, buried and resurrected. Christianity began with the disciples (most were Jewish) who were commissioned by Jesus to go out and share the Gospel (good news) with the whole world. These early disciples, under persecution, had to defend the truth (apologetics) of the Gospel by giving evidence for: 1) Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecies made by numerous Old Testament prophets; 2) Jesus’ ministry that included a multitude of miracles with the explicit purpose of proving His dominion and authority over creation (His Kingdom), and His love for humankind; and 3) Jesus’ defeat of death by crucifixion through His resurrection, witnessed by more than 500 people. These first Christian Apologists (the disciples and apostles) went to their deaths as martyrs for proclaiming the truth of their faith, none ever recanted.

  1. Late First through Third Centuries:Classical Christianity

The early followers of Jesus after His resurrection were called the Way, later called Christians to represent whom they were worshipping. These were Messianic Jews who realized that Jesus had fulfilled the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures and had resurrected in defeat of death as promised. The New Testament, written by and from eyewitness accounts to the life and ministry of Jesus, was passed on to the next generation of disciples. Christianity spread in a very short time to Gentiles in the surrounding regions and ultimately worldwide. These early Christians believed and taught that Jesus was the Son of God, God incarnate, born of a virgin, died for our sins and resurrected in defeat of death. These early Christians often met in secret because of persecution and many were martyred for the faith, yet Christianity flourished. This early Church was “non-denominational” (neither Catholic nor Protestant).

Important Note: Islam came into existence centuries after Christianity (seventh century AD/CE), it is not older than Christianity, and even though there are religions older than Christianity none of them have a predicted Savior who fulfilled the prophecies that Jesus did, made the claims that Jesus did, backed them up like Jesus did and then resurrected from the grave like Jesus did. Christianity does not take from other religions, it is based on historical documentation, reliable witnesses and a transmission history like none other.

It is amazing to see how quickly Christianity spread to other regions almost immediately after Jesus’ Resurrection (see the book of Acts). It spread too far, in separate directions, in too short of a time to be a myth or a lie. No other belief system has ever taken off and become, as it is today, a world-wide phenomenon. You have to admit that something supernatural was, and is, going on here. Take a few minutes and watch this time-lapsed spread from the time of Jesus through the year 1000 AD:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.  -2 Timothy 2:15

Next week we will look at Christianity as it developed in the fourth century AD/CE and beyond.

Reflection:

  1. Why is it important for Christians (or anyone for that matter) to know the history of their faith?
  2. If you were at that party how would you have responded to the assertions made by those two individuals? (Try to write a concise answer for each, because one minute of listening time is often all you will get)
  3. Prayer: focus on what Jesus did and the faithfulness of those early Christians.

*******Continued prayer request: Please join me in prayer for Nabeel Qureshi and his family. Pray for God’s healing hand to work a miracle in Nabeel’s life and for God’s peace and comfort that passes all understanding for him and his family. In God’s will and Jesus’ Name always we pray, Amen

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You will not find this material in the public school curriculum even though it is based on solid evidence and grounded in research. It is ironic that following the evidence to where it leads stops at the door of our public schools as they will not let a “Divine footprint” in!  Join us as we examine evidence for Christianity and learn how to become a thoughtful defender and ambassador of your faith.

Click into the resource page of this website to view many of the top Christian thinkers and apologists along with some of their work; connecting to these types of resources is essential in your Christian growth.

Please let me know what you think: Give feedback, ask questions or send concerns in the comment section of the blog.

Teri Dugan

TeriDugan@truthfaithandreason.com

2 Responses to Defending Your Faith 101: Understanding Christianity’s Roots

  1. Thank you for encouraging healthy spiritual depth. Living for “now”
    is the easy, selfish way out of personal responsibility. History or a sense of history is rejected by all such attitudes. Being sensitive to the Holy Spirit prayerfully each moment of every day
    takes work, the work of the Lord within and through us. This is not easy and requires a cost- laying down our lives at Messiah’s Cross
    so as to “take it up again” in Him. How many are willing to pay such a price? Very few it seems.

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