Arguments Against Christianity

Part 5: The marks of true christianity

By Robin Schumacher

True Christianity leaves marks – evidence of its presence in the soul. And the people of the world notice when it isn't there.

Mark Gauthier, national director in the United States for Campus Crusade for Christ, argues that today's unbeliever oftentimes decides whether to accept a teaching not on propositional arguments and proof, but rather on seeing "success" in the lives of those who have submitted themselves to the teaching. In the college-aged unbelievers he worked with, Gauthier asked them if they would become Christians if he presented iron-clad evidence that the gospel was true and found that their responses started out as ‘yes', but then went to ‘no, not really' as they admitted to him that their real deciding factor for believing was an evidentially pragmatic proof: "show me how this can change my life; let me see someone else who has found that it works for them." In other words, let's see just how authentic these Christians are, and if they walk the talk, then I'll actually consider the faith. They want to see true Christianity, in the lives of true Christians.

In essence, then, the Christian becomes the only gospel some unbelievers will ever "read". When the non-Christian sees a mismatch between what they have heard piecemeal about the teachings and life of Jesus and His professing followers, they naturally get confused at first and then without even realizing it (if their experience persists with other supposed believers), they give Christianity an "F" in the test of existential relevancy and walk away.

True Christianity does not preach a salvation by works, but it does preach that works will be evident if faith is sincere. This is what the Apostle Paul drives home to his readers in the second chapter of Romans. He asks his audience if they boast in God and if they think they're a shining example to others who just don't seem to measure up to them, then they need to do a quick self-exam. Do they break the very things they say others should follow? Are their lives an antithesis of what God's Word says? If so, Paul says, "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you" (Rom. 2:24). In other words, the Roman Christians poor behavior reflected back on the Creator in a very negative way, and this intimates Paul, is a very damning thing.

But when believers adhere to Christ's defining mark of "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35), then the unbelieving world is impacted in a positive way. In the early Church, Tertullian noted that the Romans would oftentimes exclaim, "See how they love one another!"

Perhaps the most graphic example of this selfless love happened during the terrible plague of Galen that occurred between AD 165 and 180. Whereas Christians selflessly stayed behind and helped the dying (oftentimes becoming infected themselves), the early Church bishop Dionysus wrote: "The heathen [non-Christians] behaved in the very opposite way. At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape."

Next: Part 6: Unbelievers in the pews

Arguments Against Christianity The Series

Part 1: The best arguments and how to refute them
Part 2: Some depressing Christian statistics
Part 3: Our spiritual transformation problems
Part 4: The bad business ethics of christian ministry
Part 5: The marks of true christianity
Part 6: Unbelievers in the pews
Part 7: Being different is the best defense

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Republished 5-20-13