What Is Christianity? Different than What Most People Think
And it’s a question Gregory Koukl engages in his new book The Story of Reality. The reason why is because of the misguided approach to religion people often take:
people are often tempted to think of religion as a kind of spiritual fantasy club…the one that meets your personal needs, that gives you rules to live by that are respectable but not too demanding, that warms your heart with feelings of spirituality…[They say] do not, however, confuse religious stories with reality. They don’t give you the kind of information about the world that, say, science does. Yes, believing in God is useful to a point, but religion taken too seriously is, in some ways, like believing in Santa Clause—quaint if you’re a child but unbecoming of an adult. (22)
That’s how people often view Christianity. Except this isn’t what Christianty is. As Koukl explains below, it’s different than what most people think.
What Christianity Isn’t
So, what is Christianity? Koukl outlines several ways people answer this question:
- A religious system people follow
- A guide to living your best life now
- A way of finding peace with God
- A system of ethical principles and way of living
- Not a religion at all, but a relationship with God or Jesus
Although Koukl does say each of these answers carry some truth to them, they don’t go far enough in explaining what Christianity is.
Each is a look at Christianity from the inside, so to speak, from the perspective of the Christian living out his or her individual beliefs or personal faith. (22)
Yes, this is certainly part of explaining what Christianity is, and most would make sense to most people wondering what Christianity is. And yet…Koukl says something is missing.
What Christianity Is
So if Christianity isn’t merely a religious system, a guide to living a fulfilling life, a system for ethical living, or even merely a relationship with God—what is it, then?
It is an account or a description or a depiction of the way things actually are. (23)
In other words, “Christianity is a picture of reality” (23).
Koukl makes the point that it isn’t merely a view from the inside—from “a Christian’s personal feelings or religious beliefs or spiritual affections or ethical views or ‘relationship’ with God” (23). It’s also a view of the outside—it’s “a view of the world out there, of how the world really is in itself” (23).
Another way of it putting it is that Christianity is a worldview. On this account there is no difference, then, between an atheist and a Christian, for every person has a view of the world—which are their beliefs. As Koukl explains, “A person’s belief, in my sense of the word, is simply his view of some detail of the world that he holds to be accurate…And both scientists and saints alike have beliefs of this sort” (24).
Four Elements of What Christianity Is
Alright, rather than being merely a religion, ethical way of life, or even a relationship with God, Christianity should be thought of as a view of reality. The way Koukl describes that view throughout his engaging book is as a Story—a story of reality.
And like any good story, this one contains four crucial parts:
- Creation tells us how things began, where everything came from (including us), the reason for our origins, and what ultimate reality is like
- Fall describes the problem (since we all know something has gone wrong with the world)
- Redemption gives us the solution, the way to fix what went wrong
- Restoration describes what the world would look like once the repair takes place. (25)
Interestingly, every worldview has these same four elements. Whether Buddhism or Islam, secularism or communism, “worldviews help us answer the basic questions each of us struggles with sooner or later in our lives if we pass to think about the really important things: Where did we come from? What is our problem? What is the solution? How will things end for us?” (25).
The same is true of Christianity:
The Christian Story…deals with the great issues all people struggle with and the great questions everyone asks. It’s a story about peace shattered by rebellion, about love and betrayal, about self-sacrifice, and about redemption. (27)
“In this book I want to tell you that story—the Story of reality—and help you see your place in it” (18).
In a few weeks we’ll examine one element of this Story. In the meantime, buy Koukl’s book and begin engaging it yourself to better understand what Christianity is—as well as how the world began, how it ends, and everything important that happens in between.