As Pastor John Piper finishes up traveling through the Middle East during the month of November, we are going to go back and listen to a few Ask Pastor John recordings from years past. A few years back he was asked this question: “What are some ways we can know Christianity is true?” Here’s what Pastor John said.
You can come at the truth of Christianity through several angles of apologetics or of reasoning. Let me mention a few and tell you the one that is most existentially real for me.
One line of evidence would be historical. I think arguments can be mounted that are solid and compelling for the existence of Jesus, and for the death of Jesus, and for the resurrection of Jesus — to give an account for why the apostles acted the way they did after his death.
The arguments that Pannenburg has developed, or evangelicals have developed, for the resurrection of the dead — Who Moved the Stone? is an example — are strong and have helped many people get over the barrier, because if Jesus has been raised from the dead never to die again and to ascend into heaven, then we should take very seriously and credit what he said about himself. So that is one line of evidence.
A second line of evidence would be what would be called presuppositional — that without God as an assumption and without the Bible as an assumption, all of our reasoning processes or all of our perceiving processes are not possible. In other words, every time we start thinking and every time we start perceiving, something is happening in our heads which assumes something. And if you are going to have any kind of credible conversation about what you are thinking or about what you are seeing, then you are assuming certain laws of logic, certain laws of causality, certain laws of existence which can’t have any bearing or absolute significance unless they are rooted in God.
So everybody is talking nonsense, but hardly anybody will say, “We are all just animals talking nonsense.” Even those who are totally secular, naturalistic evolutionists don’t like to be treated like animals. When a dog barks, I don’t assume he is writing poetry, but when a man puts poetry down, I assume he wants me to take him seriously as a human being who has serious meaning there. He doesn’t like it if I say, “That is just chicken scratch.” So he is assuming something unbelievably profound about the significance and the basis of what he is doing which he can’t unless there is this Christian construction of God. So that is the presuppositional angle.
Here is the third one, and the last one that is most significant to me: How do you decide if a testimony — a witness that somebody has — is true? You weren’t there. There were no videos. There was no recording, and you must decide whether what he is saying happened, happened. When I read the Bible, that is the way I feel. For instance, I am reading Paul — one of the thirteen letters of the apostle Paul. And he is telling me he saw the Lord Jesus. He is telling me that he was knocked off his donkey on the Damascus road, saw the Lord Jesus, was commissioned by the Lord Jesus, and now is inspired by the Lord Jesus. And then he interprets all of that in terms of the gospel.
“How do you decide if a testimony — a witness that somebody has — is true? You weren’t there. There were no videos.”
Now I must reckon with Paul: Are you a lunatic? Are you a liar? Or are you telling the truth? That is usually used with Jesus. You know, “Lunatic, Liar or Lord?” I think it is a good argument, and I use it for the writers of the New Testament — not just for Jesus — because I know that I have Paul right here in my hand. I want to know, Are you crazy?
So when I am reading the Bible, whether it is the gospel of John or whether it is Romans, I am asking the question, How can I credit what is here — both the testimony of the man and the portrait of Jesus? And I think there is a light that stands forth from the text of the truthfulness of Jesus that is self-authenticating. And there is a kind of character for the writers that stands forth that is authenticating of their solidity, their truthfulness — that they are not lunatics, and they are not liars.
Jesus Wins My Trust
If somebody said to me today, “Okay, just give me in thirty seconds why you are a Christian,” I would say, “Number one, the portrait that I see of Jesus Christ in the gospels is self-authenticating to me. I cannot meet this man and have him speak like nobody else spoke and not believe him. He wins my trust.”
And then if they say, “Oh, but how do you know that Jesus is not being created by somebody else?” I would say, “In that case, the person that is creating him is just as phenomenal, and they win my trust. And if they win my trust, then they are not lying to me.” The apostle Paul is not a lunatic. I cannot read the thirteen letters of the apostle Paul and think he is crazy or think he is a liar. So those two things — the self-authenticating portrait of Jesus Christ that I find in Scripture and the character-endorsing way that the apostles write their books and reveal their own trustworthiness — explain why I am a Christian.