Quick Thoughts: Non-Christians telling me about my faith

I’m going to throw this question out there as something which it might be a good idea to think about, debate, chew over and ponder: should non-Christians tell Christians what Christianity is? Should Christians listen to them?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, the reason being that in a lot of debates and provocative books on the subject, non-Christians tell Christians what Christianity is. ‘It says this in the Bible…’; ‘Christians are supposed to act like this…’; ‘Jesus taught this…’ the list goes on. Frankly, I’m sick of being told what I believe by people who don’t have a clue. If I sound a bit bullish about this, it’s because I am. As an English student, I wouldn’t tell Tolkien how to write a fantasy book. A music student wouldn’t tell Beethoven how to compose a masterpiece. So why should someone who’s found a few Bible verses on the internet tell Christians how to live their lives?

I appreciate that Christians will always be watched by the outside world and I know it’s important that as far as we possibly can, we keep our lives free from sin and hypocrisy. I get that. I also know that a non-Christian may be able to offer insight into Christianity that a Christian may have missed – I’m not saying that’s impossible. But here’s why I think that a non-Christian instructing a Christian about Christianity doesn’t work: it is impossible to get Christianity without first knowing Jesus personally. An atheist reading this may well be rolling their eyes at the notion of a relationship with Jesus, but bear with me. Christianity is not all about the Bible. If it was, anyone could look into it in depth; a non-Christian could have the same level of insight as a Christian. No, I believe that Christianity is dynamic; true faith is the product of a relationship with the Father, made possible by the death of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit in us. So much of the way I understand Christianity has come out of late night conversations with God. If you’re a non-Christian and you’re reading this thinking ‘what is he on about?’ then you’re proving my point. I don’t see how you can really get to grips with Christianity until you start to know the Author of the faith. Central to Christianity is Jesus’ death and the personal relationship with God that that death brings. If you don’t have that relationship, how can you even begin to know what being a Christian is all about?

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Tesla_Lumen says:

    Interesting read and I believe you have the right to believe what you want. I feel the same when religious people try to tell me what being an atheist is all about, so with that, i hear you. Personally I am all for evidence based learning and cant believe in something that has no evidence, I would not either try to convert any religious people to my view.

    1. bengarry says:

      Fair enough. I wouldn’t want to tell an atheist what they may or may not believe, I can assure you of that! I share your belief that beliefs should have evidence by the way. I believe in Christianity because I believe the evidence best fits it, but I know that evidence is not conclucive. Thank you for sharing your opinion 🙂

  2. What about Atheists who were Christians, and had a relationship with God?

    1. bengarry says:

      Well, in their case, though they have an interesting position, I think 2 things could be said:
      1) If you actually had a relationship with God in the first place, you must have a VERY good reason for being an atheist because I think to have a relationship with something, you really need to know in yourself that it exists.
      2) An atheist by nature is no longer in a relationship with God and has therefore lost that dynamic relationship of continuing understanding and insight. From that perspective, even the Christian-turned-atheist cannot tell Christians what they believe.

      I think point 2 is more important. Hope it helps.

      1. carl says:

        good reply and one i would have said

      2. 1) There are a multitude of atheists that had a very sincere relationship with God, many of whom were former pastors, ministers, priests, youth leaders, and faithful church goers. In all their deconversion stories they tell of how they *knew* that God existed, how passionate they were about Jesus, up until the point that the *knew* that it was all baloney (generally a process that takes a few years). And indeed, they have VERY good reasons for becoming atheists. I myself are one of those people. Don’t fall in the trap to think that we weren’t really Christian btw, that’s just insulting and not true. Our testimonies are worth listening to. Good examples are people like Dan Barker, Seth Andrews, Matt Dillahunty. or my blog 😉

        2) No one can tell you what you believe. Believe what you want as long as you don’t force it on other people and cause any harm. However, believers so often cross the line, that it becomes necessary to point out the consequences of their beliefs. It’s not necessary to know or to be party to the continuing understanding and insight of a believer (be it Christian, Muslim etc), to criticise the consequences of their actions (some of which are really bad). But atheists who’s been there, offer an interesting perspective. This is because they generally do a lot of research into why they could have been so convinced of their belief when they were Christian. And you know what, there are very compelling reasons why people believe and why people are so convinced. So we can’t tell you what you believe, but we can tell you why you believe, and we can tell you why you should be suspicious of the belief. This, at least, should be explored by any person who wants to make sure their beliefs are invested in something that is likely to be true.

        And I expect the same criticism of my beliefs.

      3. bengarry says:

        1) I accept your point here as I don’t think there’s anything that could be accomplished by arguing about it. I hope, however, that you can acknowledge that in my mind, I struggle to see how you can have a genuine relationship with God which, by nature of being a true relationship, must involve two extant beings. It is this relationship that makes Christianity what it is. This isn’t a criticism of your views, it’s more of an insight into my thinking on the subject.

        2) I disagree that a non-Christian could tell a Christian why they believe something, if only because of the vast wealth of possible reasons for belief. I’m open in saying that my belief comes from my persuasion that the resurrection really happened, but some Christians may have reasons for belief that are harder to pin down. I also reject many non-Christian reasons for belief such as Existential Security Theory and the infamous ‘religious crutch’ because they seek to remove religion from what I see as the reality of God, looking for natural/social explanations in the realm of meta-physics.

        The point that I maintain and is really the essence of all this is that there is no ‘end point’ of the understanding of Christianity in this life at least, Christians keep learning through an active relationship with God. In my way of thinking, as soon as this ends, a person loses an essential part of what makes it possible to get to grips with Christianity. You may disagree, but if you could see God as a living, personal and active force, you’ll see why I cannot accept that a non-Christian will ever know what it means to be Christian, regardless of whether they were once a lay-person in thr church or the Archbishop of Cantebury or have been an atheist all their life. I don’t want to come across as hostile (I fully respect your views!) but I’m not going to mince words on an issue like this.

  3. Sipech says:

    My experience of discussions (yes, and arguments) with atheists, both in person and online, is that the most outspoken critics of christianity are those who’ve had some taste of the christian life, often being brought up by christian parents and being forced to go to church. In such instances, I think the fact that they have chosen to reject christianity should not count against them.

    Your argument seems to hunger in the idea that ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’. I would agree with this to some degree. I am often told what I believe based when that person has either misunderstood or simplified some point of theology.

    However, one cannot use this as an excuse to refuse to answer any and all criticisms. I would draw the analogy of people in a pub discussing football. They may have played in their youth and watch it with interest without playing. Yet as they sit by the bar, pint in hand, there is nothing to stop them from having an opinion on who the manager should play, who should be dropped and who should be captain. Is their opinion wrong? It might be, it might not be, there’s no hard and fast rule. Their view may be based on observation, but might well be an incomplete observation. Yet that’s where we all start from. I know I don’t have all the facts and certainly don’t understand everything about christianity; I make the best judgement I can based on what I know and understand. I would be extremely sceptical of anyone who made a claim to complete knowledge & understanding.

    The best we can hope for is, if any person (christian or critic) puts forth a proposition if the form ‘I understand that you think X’ then we can gently correct and educate one another by either saying that X is incorrect, incomplete or misses the point. If we are gentle and gracious in clarifying our positions, then there is all the more chance that the other party may listen & learn.

  4. everexistent says:

    This is a very interesting post. That’s because I’m not Christian and I was born Muslim. However, I have read the Bible. Both past and contemporary scholars of Christianity and Islam who have sound knowledge agree that each verse (whether from the Bible, Torah, or the Qur’an) should be contextualized in its own time. Each verse sent is prominent to its own era and time. Therefore, any modern person wouldn’t have the means to fully understand the verse, unless they go back in history and understand its entire significance. I must agree that, this alone does not mean I have perfect and sound knowledge of the Christian religion. Nonetheless, the little I know may be enough to spark a proper debate on the actual existence of God.

    We must always understand that a person who is not Muslim may understand more about Islam than a person who is Muslim; and a person who is not Christian may understand more about Christianity than a person who is Christian.

    Although neither would have the knowledge of both religions in its exact entirety, I asure you it isn’t rare to find people like that these days. Living in the ‘age of information’, it isn’t hard for anyone to gather credible amounts of information on certain subjects. Therefore (in my humble opinion), yes, in most instances a non-Christian can tell a Christian what their faith is.

    But then again, I am not saying I would do so; because clearly I have a lot of learning to do on my side. Anyone who says ‘they know it all’ would only proove himself to be a fool.

    Since the Bible is the main existing epitome of Christianity, anyone who is looking for sound faith would read the Bible first. Understanding Christianity by getting to know Jesus is not possible because Jesus is no longer around, so getting to know him personally can only happen through reading the living existense of what he life behind; the Bible.

    People who are pure of religion want logic that God exists. To be able to use their minds to figure out whether its true or not. They do this by reading the religions book; the existing proof. After doing so, then and only then…will they be able to make an emotional connection with a Higher Being. It goes in this order;

    1.Curiosity
    2.Research
    3.Logic
    4.Understanding
    5.Emotional connection

    Since the Bible is the main evidence for Christianity, people are more inclined to form an understanding from there. So, don’t be surprised if someone who was once curious read the bible, studied it and understood more about a verse than a Christian. Then who would be allowed to provide commentary on a Bible verse a Christian who doesn’t read it at all, or that non-Christian who has done effective research on the Bible, studied Christianity, and perhaps has a PhD in the specifics of Christianity (School of Theology/ Christian Education)?

    Just a disclaimer: In most discussions we’ve engaged in, I remember quoting verses from the Bible… I’ll be the first to say sorry if I’ve ever stated any wrong information, or misconstrued the translation, and in the future correct me if I ever do.

    1. bengarry says:

      I think that although I agree with almosy everything there, the fundamental point that we have to agree on is wether Jesus still lives. I argue that I believe he does, therefore a non-Christian simply cannot know Christianity like a Christian can.

      But, that’s probably a dead-end debate for now, and I find it encouraging that we can share and compare views like this and see that actually, we’re not all that far apart with every issue 🙂

  5. everexistent says:

    Btw, I myself would be very annoyed if someone misconstrued a verse in the Qur’an. Especially if it is someone who knows absolutely nothing about Islam. So, I agree 110% when you say “being told…especially from people who have no clue”.

  6. everexistent says:

    Yeah, Jesus does live and he’ll eventually descend back to Earth by Gods decree. Hopefully, if we live until then and actually meet him we can ask him so many questions! I’m looking forward to more of your mind provoking posts, they really have me thinking. That’s good to know, I also feel the same way :))

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