The following is a summary, not necessarily in sequential order, of a conversation I had with an associate at work.
- Conversation all got started when we were watching a news show about the church shooting in Charleston, S.C. As an aside, during the conversation, we were talking about how the shooter had sat in a Bible study for an hour and then shot the people. The person I was talking to actually phrased it as “he was sitting there listening to and reading the Word of God and yet he still did that”. I didn’t comment on his characterization of the Bible as “the Word of God”, but I certainly was happy to hear him refer to it that way! Unfortunately, later in the conversation, he would contradict this characterization by saying that he didn’t think that Jesus really said some of the things that are in the Bible (particularly regarding hell). And unfortunately, I didn’t do 3 things I wished I’d done:
– Ask him how he’d come to that conclusion (that Jesus didn’t say some of the things in the Bible)…
– From that point on in the conversation I should’ve referred to the Bible as the Word of God
– When He later said that he doubted that Jesus had actually said what the Bible says He said about hell, I should’ve reminded him that he called the Bible the Word of God
Anyway, he said he knew someone who’d lived there. This person was in a mixed marriage (Hindu and a Christian – Indian man, white woman). They liked a lot of their experience in living in that area, but ultimately moved away because they got a lot of questions from ‘Bible thumping’ people about why she as a Christian would be marrying someone of a different religion (Hindu). It wasn’t a racist thing, but more about the mixing of different religions.
- I wanted to tell him that I was a ‘Bible thumper’ too, but I didn’t – I just didn’t think it would be beneficial to the conversation and, also, that fact would come out anyway later.
- I told him that I can see why Christians would be asking another Christian why she is marrying someone of a different religion. That is specifically prohibited in the Bible. I told him that it is called ‘being unequally yoked’.
- I also told him that no matter what 2 religions were involved, I don’t think it is a good idea for 2 people who are deeply committed to 2 different religions to get married. I think they’re just asking for trouble at some point down the line.
- Any god who would send people to hell for not believing in him cannot be good. So, I don’t think he actually said that (about people going to hell because they don’t believe in Jesus)
- Thinks that the ‘original guy’ (Jesus, Chrisna, Allah, etc) didn’t say that. Thinks that his followers embellished it.
- I asked him what his concept of heaven is? He didn’t know. I clarified: what do you think is going to happen when you die? Again, he didn’t know…
- Thinks the core of all religions are the same (love your neighbor etc – how you live). Thinks that men added all this other stuff (churches, crosses, etc) – the original guy didn’t want that to be a part of it.
- Stopped me when I said “yeah but” when talking about Islam – don’t think that religions should criticize each other. Whenever he talks to someone about religion, they always criticize the other religions.
- He wanted to know why can’t they all (religions) be true – why does only yours have to be true?
- Says religious people sound like they’re on their moral high horse – telling him that he’s not living as good as he should etc.
- I told him that I’m not trying to tell him about this to get him to join a church or donate his money, or out of a sense of arrogance thinking I’m better than him – rather I’m concerned about his eternal salvation. He then said that everyone (from other religions) always tells me they’re telling me out of concern for me.
- He believes that churches and men use the concept of hell to draw more people to be a part of their community. It’s a power play.
- Asked him about whether he’s sure (about his assessment of Christianity) – has he considered that he could be wrong?
- He said he likes to take what he likes from a religion – doesn’t necessarily feel the need to believe everything they tell you you have to believe. For example, he wouldn’t believe in Jesus walking on the water. I told him you must believe the resurrection to be saved – that’s critical – but you don’t necessarily need to believe Jesus walked on water to be saved.
- Why is Jesus called Savior? He said lot of gods have been called savior… Then I clarified my question – “since He is called Savior (and called Himself Savior), what do you think He is saving us from?” He didn’t actually verbalize an answer, he just shook his head in agreement as if he knew the answer. I went on to explain that He is saving us from the consequences of our sins, which deserve hell. When He died on the cross, He was paying the penalty that was due us for our sins.
- I told him, I’m not better than him – all people are in the same boat – we are all sinners headed for hell apart from a saving relationship with Christ. I’m just a forgiven sinner, that’s the only difference between us. He acknowledged that is the core of Christianity. Yes, I told him it is more about a relationship with a person. Told him I’m just one beggar telling another beggar where to find food. He said, but what about if the beggar is already got a source of food?
- He talked about ‘faking it’ in Hinduism
- Talked about historical evidence – 40 different people over 1500 years wrote the Bible, 9 people writing 27 documents – new testament – all within the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses – martyred for their faith, when they could’ve recanted and then the Romans wouldn’t have killed them.
- He definitely believes that Jesus exists – that he was a historical figure – just doesn’t believe some of that stuff written in the Bible
- Doesn’t believe a lot of miraculous stories of his own religion either.
- Talked about what happens when you die – he doesn’t know. I asked if he’d ever really investigated it? I mean you plan for vacations, you plan for retirement, why don’t you plan for what’s going to happen when you die?
- That led into a talk about reincarnation because he said the Hindu people who visit him periodically, are also concerned about him and his destination, just like other ‘religious people’. So, I asked him, with reincarnation, doesn’t that mean you always have another chance? Like if you do ‘bad’ in this life you might come back as a cockroach, but if you then do well as a cockroach, in the next life, you can come back as a higher life form and keep improving from there – essentially, you have an unlimited number of “do overs”. He acknowledged that was correct, but he said that Hindus don’t really focus on that part much. They focus more on how you live this life. So I communicated to him that there are no “do overs” in Christianity. You have one chance to make peace with God in this life – if you haven’t done that by the time you die, you won’t go to heaven, which means you’ll end up separated from God forever in hell.
- He was talking about the Hindu people who come to talk to him and how they don’t think he’s going to temple enough and not doing enough of the practices of their religion. So, I talked to him about how, in Christianity, you can’t work your way into heaven – that’s one of the distinguishing characteristics of Christianity compared to other religions.
- Talked about dilemma –Liar, Lunatic, Legend or Lord – it has to be one of those 4. Explained each one. He seemed to agree and understand. From what he was saying, it seemed like even though he didn’t think Jesus Himself was a Legend, it sounded like he thought that a lot of what was said about Jesus was embellished by His followers.
- He ended up saying “that’s fine if it works for you – I’m happy for you”. Of course I told him that I’m not a Christian because it “works for me” in the sense that it allows me to be moral, or have more peace or better luck or anything like that. I’m a Christian because I have good reasons for believing it is actually true.