My son, Bailey, has a friend named Conner who has been asking his parents some very challenging theological questions of late. He is only eight years old, but Conner has been stumping his mom and dad just like my kids stump me from time to time. Recently he asked, “How do we know that our religion (Christianity) is the true one and the others are wrong?” Whoa. That’s a toughy. This is one of those cases where the kid’s question itself is as encouraging as it is challenging. It’s encouraging because it shows that he is already thinking critically about worldviews. And it’s challenging, of course, because, well, the question raises a whole nest of difficult issues. It’s also worth noting that Conner’s question presupposes two important truths. First, it assumes that there is such a thing as truth in religion and, secondly, it assumes that not all religions can be true. So the question as to why we should believe Christianity is the one true religion is itself insightful.
So, then, how do we know that Christianity is true? The short answer is that we know this through special revelation—the Bible. Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ is the unique of Son of God, that he lived a sinless life, and that he died and rose from the dead to save humanity from their sins. This is the essence of the gospel and the heart of Christianity. It is also the essential doctrine of our faith which distinguishes it from all other religious faiths. The great theistic traditions of Judaism and Islam, for all their many insights and true doctrines (e.g., that there is a personal God who created the world and communicates with us through special revelation, etc.), deny the divinity of Christ. And pantheistic religions, such as Hinduism and New Age thought, deny that Jesus Christ is uniquely divine (since they affirm that all human beings are essentially divine).
Christianity stands alone in affirming that Jesus is the unique God-man and savior of the world. And this core Christian belief is based on the teachings of the New Testament. So, then, the next question is whether the New Testament is trustworthy. Without delving into technicalities, the evidence for the historicity (historical reliability) of the N.T. documents is overwhelming. In fact, the manuscript attestation for the New Testament documents is incomparably greater than that for any other ancient documents. For an informative—a surprisingly stimulating—book on this subject, I highly recommend F. F. Bruce’s classic The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? And there are many other excellent resources, such as Craig Blomberg’s The Historical Reliability of the Gospels and Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, which confirm our confidence in the New Testament and, in turn, its central claim that Jesus Christ is uniquely divine.
So it all comes down to the identity of Jesus Christ. Is he the God-man or a mere mortal? This is not only the central question in the study of comparative religions but also the central question of human history. Either Jesus is divine and Christianity is the one true religion, or he was a fraud and Christianity is a scandalous lie. Neither of those alternatives is benign. Both have profound implications for the meaning of life. So kudos to Conner for posing such a foundational question. He has gotten to the heart of the matter. And all of us, not just his parents, need to be ready with an answer.
By the way, in my book Gum, Geckos, and God I tackle many questions like these posed by my own kids. I’m interested in hearing other insightful and challenging theological questions posed by children (or adults, for that matter), so let me know if you have a good one to share.