Often atheists will try to refute Christianity by saying to the Christian: “You’re only a Christian because you were born into a Christian family in a predominantly Christian society. Had you been born in India, you would be a Hindu.”
The first part of that assertion is true — one of the main reasons I am a Christian is because I was born and raised in a Christian environment — more on that in a second. The second assertion is nonsense. Had I not been born to the parents I was born to, in the country I was born in, at the time I was born in, I would not exist, and so no logical assumptions can be made from that assertion. It is like saying, “If 2 + 2 = 5, then….” Well, two and two don’t equal five, and so no logical argument can result from that line of reasoning.
As to the first assertion: I am a Christian because my forebears were Christian — yes, that’s true — so… so what? That does nothing to refute the Christian faith; in fact, it supports it. We know from the bible that God is a God of covenant: “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:5b-6) God maintains relationship from generation to generation through covenantal relationships. That is the way He operates, and the concept of covenant is one of the essential ideas one must understand in order to understand Christianity.*
Perhaps I will write more on covenant at a later time. For now, if you’re interested, click here for further reading on the concept of covenant.
*The other essential idea one must understand is holiness.
Do we fully grasp the righteousness of Jesus in the post-Reformation world? Is theology set in stone now? Was it perfected by the Reformers?
The Reformation did a lot of good for Christianity, but one thing it did not do is reconnect the Church with its Hebraic roots in covenant; i.e. the covenant started with Abraham and continuing on to Jesus and beyond. Post-Reformation Christians are more influenced by Plato than they are by Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets, and even Paul.
Because the modern Church does not have a proper understanding of the covenant which existed between God and Israel, we get a whole lot wrong when trying to understand the life, teachings, and work of Jesus two thousand years ago.
Followers of Plato tend to believe that there is a standard of good and evil, which can exist apart from God, which God Himself submits to, even if He Himself created that standard. Hebrew faith, however, holds that God arbitrarily decides what is good and evil, and without God there would be no such thing as good and evil. If the Hebrews are correct, then how can we ever know if we are in right standing with God? According to the Hebrews, we can know through covenant: a covenant in which the conditions are clearly laid out for each party — God has His obligations and the people have theirs.
The righteousness of Jesus, then, in regards to His life and ministry two thousand years ago, is not so much dependant on Him perfectly submitting to a standard of good and evil as it is dependant on Him perfectly submitting to the conditions of the covenant existing between God and Israel.
So, we could say that the primary mission of Jesus (the man living two thousand years ago) was not to live a perfect life without sin on behalf of all mankind (although He did indeed do that); His primary mission was to fulfill the primary mission of Israel, which was to reconcile mankind with God.
That kind of sounds like saying the same thing twice in just a little different way. But, why couldn’t have God just given the mission of Israel directly to Jesus first? Why fumble around with Israel at all? I write a little about that here: In The Fullness of Time.