Why I Am A Nazarene, Part 1

This is the first of a three-part series on why I am a Nazarene. In this first post, I will explain why I am a Christian. I will offer a brief summary of various reasons why I have placed my trust in Christ. Space prevents me from listing more than I have here. In the second part, I will explain why I am an Arminian as opposed to a Calvinist. In the third part, I will explain why I am a Nazarene as opposed to other Arminian denominations.

Let me state at the very beginning of this series that I am:

I. A Christian first.
II. A Wesleyan-Arminian second.
III. A Nazarene third.

For this reason, I have ordered the series in the way that I have.

There is much that I could say in regards to my Christian faith. What is presented here is a summary of some of the reasons why I accept the Christian faith as true, and have, as a result, placed my trust in Christ. In short, this list is not exhaustive. I will first focus on reasons why I accept the existence of God, and from there, explain why I accept Christianity. When I refer to God, I am referring to a sovereign Being who created the universe, sustains it by His will, made mankind, and still acts in creation. I am going to give a brief explanation of why I believe in a God who loves mankind and sacrificed Himself to save us. I will also explain grace. But first, let's briefly look at some of the reasons why I accept God.

There are several philosophical reasons for accepting the existence of God. Perhaps one of the most fundamental questions in philosophy is, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" This question cries out for an explanation. Appealing to the statistically impossible idea that everything sprang into being, uncaused, out of absolutely nothing is not satisfying. It takes far too much blind faith (as opposed to reasonable faith) in order to accept this. In fact, it appears that this would have been an impossible thing. It is a simple fact that absolutely nothing cannot create anything. There must, therefore, be something that caused the things we see to come to be. Every other explanation is utter foolishness.

There are two major types of things that can exist. The first type of thing is a necessary thing. That is, a necessary thing is something that exists by the necessity of its own nature. The second type of thing is called a contingent thing. That is, a contingent thing is something that depends on something else for its existence, and does not exist according to a necessity of its own nature. A contingent thing can be recognized because it is something that could have failed to exist. When we look at the universe, we realize that it belongs to the latter category. It is completely possible that the universe could have failed to exist. Since contingent things exist, well, contingently, the question must be raised: "What is the universe's existence contingent on?" It cannot be contingent on something in itself, since this is a property of necessary things, not contingent things. The reasonable conclusion is that there is something outside of the universe on which the universe is contingent. Since matter, space, time, and energy make up the universe, the reasonable conclusion is that the Necessary Thing on which the universe's existence is contingent must be immaterial, spaceless, timeless, and extraordinarily powerful.
The fact that the universe had a beginning is a strong indication that it had an immaterial, spaceless, timeless, extraordinarily powerful and personal Cause.

Perhaps the most common argument for God's existence today is the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which goes as follows:

I. If the universe began to exist, then the universe has a cause.
II. The universe began to exist.
III. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

This argument is valid and logically sound. However, there is something that has struck me as particularly interesting about how this argument is usually presented. When discussing the second premise of the argument, we discuss how the universe is not actually infinite. This is particularly interesting because it appears that another argument could spring from the concepts raised in the second premise. It would go something like this, and would be a kind of parallel to the KCA:

I. If the universe is not actually infinite, it must have a beginning. (This is by definition)
II. If (I), then something outside the universe caused it (If the universe caused itself, it would be have to be necessary, which we have already seen is not the case).
III. The universe is not actually infinite (all of the data points to this.)
IV. Therefore, something outside the universe caused the universe.

This is interesting, because it comes to the same conclusion as the KCA. We can deduce, from other facts concerning the nature of the universe, that this cause of the universe must, again, be immaterial, spaceless, timeless, extraordinarily powerful, and personal.

I also accept the moral argument for God's existence, as well as the argument from evil for the existence of a good God. These arguments are often misunderstood. The argument simply states that, for objective good and evil to exist, there must exist an Objective Moral Standard. Often, people confuse ontology and epistemology when discussing this argument. The argument has to do with ontology, not epistemology. C.S. Lewis probably gives the best summary when he states,

"My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it?  A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning." [1]
In short, morality and immorality would have absolutely no meaning if we did not have that "straight line" to compare it with. This seems to me almost so obvious that it shouldn't need to be stated.

In recent years, another argument that has fascinated me has also been one of the more controversial arguments in philosophical circles. When I first heard Alvin Plantinga's Modal Ontological Argument, I thought it was strange, and I did not accept it. However, the more I looked at the argument, the more I recognized it to be valid. While space does not permit me to give a full account of this argument for God's existence, I can give a brief summary:

I. It is possible that a Maximally Great Being exists.
II. If it is possible that a Maximally Great Being exists, then a Maximally Great Being must exist in some possible worlds.
III. If a Maximally Great Being must exist in some possible worlds, then a Maximally Great Being must exist in every possible world.
IV. If a Maximally Great Being must exist in every possible world, then a Maximally Great Being must exist in the real world.
V. If a Maximally Great Being exists in the real world, then a Maximally Great Being exists.

This argument for God's existence uses the terms "Possible world," and "Maximally Great Being" in a very technical sense. That is, these things are very clearly defined. A possible world is a state of affairs that could have come to pass. A popular misconception is that it has something to do with parallel universes. It does not. A Maximally Great Being is a Being that is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent in every possible situation. That is, this Being cannot fail to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. The conclusion that comes from this is clearly spelled out in the conclusion. Furthermore, as I discovered as I began to look into more detail at the argument, the only premise that can be debated is premise I. Everything else flows logically and necessarily from this single premise.

I have always been bugged by the blind faith (as opposed to reasonable faith) that non-theists have placed in statistically impossible odds. Consider the odds that the universe sprang into being, uncaused, out of nothing. Then, consider the statistical impossibility of the universe unfolding exactly the way that it did. Then consider the statistical impossibility that our solar system unfolded the way that it did, and provided a planet that is capable of sustaining life. Then consider the statistical impossibility of life arising uncaused (something even the Miller-Urey experiment failed to accomplish, even with ideal conditions and with the addition of intelligence). Then consider the statistical impossibility of life unfolding on our planet in the way that it has. Then consider the statistics regarding the possibility of our ecosystem arising in a stable enough manner to sustain life. The list could go on and on, but the point is that, the more we add, the more impossible that it becomes for such things to have occurred without intelligence. With each thing that is added, the less likely it becomes that such a thing happened. When you add statistical impossibility to statistical impossibility to statistical impossibility, you will never get away from a statistically impossible situation. When you look at these things, it becomes apparent that they did not happen randomly by themselves. In the words of Sir Fred Hoyle,

"A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology."
In the words of Stephen Hawking,

"If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have re-collapsed before it ever reached its present size. … Our universe and its laws appear to have a design that both is tailor-made to support us and, if we are to exist, leaves little room for alteration."
In short, the fact that we are around to witness these things is a strong indication that we are not mere accidents of nature. It indicates that there is something more.

Two discoveries have also strengthened my view in regards to creation. The first was Michael Behe's explanation of irreducibly complex systems in nature and in our own bodies. The classic example of this is the flagellum. In short, an irreducibly complex system is a system that needs all of its components in order to function. That is, it could not have arisen gradually over time, one part being created before the other. The entire system has to come into existence at the same time. If any part is missing, the system does not function. Think of a mousetrap:

A common mousetrap 

Anyone who has ever used a mousetrap like this will realize that it needs all of its components in order to function. If there is no hammer, you do not have a functioning mousetrap. If you don't have a hold bar, you have no functioning mousetrap. If you have no platform, you have no functioning mousetrap. Get the picture? In the same way, we have systems within our bodies that function much the same way. If all of the components are not there, they do not function. The reasonable conclusion is that the components that make up these systems came into existence at the same time. But this flies in the face of neo-Darwinism. The second discovery that has strengthened my position is the explanation by Stephen C. Meyer of the so-called "signature in the cell". Again, this flies in the face of neo-Darwinism. It is actually more akin to William Paley's Watchmaker analogy.

A common pocket watch, with gears showing.

William Paley used an analogy of a pocket watch to explain that, if you see something that is clearly made by an intelligent being, you are justified in assuming that it was made by an intelligent being. Imagine walking through the woods and finding, on the ground, a pocket watch, with all of its gears still working. Would you be justified in assuming that the watch was made by an intelligent mind, or would you be justified in saying that it came about gradually by little changes over a long period of time. It would be utterly ridiculous to believe the latter! In the same way, when we see things such as irreducibly complex systems and a specific sequence of "letters" in our DNA, it is reasonable to conclude that these came from an intelligent being. It would be entirely unreasonable to assume that these came about randomly. 

The next point I want to raise comes from experience. In short, I know individuals who have experienced the miraculous. Many of these have been in regard to medical diagnoses that have stumped doctors when they were healed, often after the church gathering to pray for the individual. When you have specific answers to specific prayers that happen, it is reasonable to assume that these things were not accidental.

All of the data points directly to Jesus Christ.

Now, let me explain why I am a Christian, instead of, say, an orthodox Jew. There are good reasons for accepting not just the existence of a God, but the existence of the Christian God. Perhaps one of the most straightforward comes from an argument that I explained earlier. The simple fact is that only Christianity is compatible with the concept of a Maximally Great Being. Islam is not, because its concept of God is not omnibenevolent, and in several ways, human beings are greater than the so-called god of Islam. Only in Christianity do we see the existence of a Maximally Great Being, since a Maximally Great Being must be perfectly Just, while at the same time being perfectly loving. These two things are needed to keep in line with the omnibenevolence of the Maximally Great Being. Furthermore, a perfectly Just being must condemn all sin, and a perfectly loving Being would want to avoid condemning those He loves, namely, human beings. Perfect Justice rules out all works-based righteousness, since everyone has fallen short of perfection at some time or another. It becomes difficult to imagine the meeting of perfect love and perfect justice without also including grace in the picture, and this kind of grace is unique to the Christian faith.

Perhaps an analogy will make my point more clear:
Imagine a perfectly just Judge. Now, imagine that you have lived perfectly up until this point in your life, and you, for some reason, go rob a bank. The robbery was successful, but afterwards, you feel terrible, so you decide to donate the millions of dollars you have just stolen to help orphaned children. You get away with the crime for 30 years, and are finally caught. The evidence against you is overwhelming. As you go in front of the perfectly just Judge, which of these will get you off the hook?:

A.) "I have done more good than bad."
B.) "I donated all the money to charity and never spent a penny on myself."
C.) "That happened a long time ago. I haven't robbed another bank since."
D.) "No one else got hurt."
E.) "I wasn't as bad as so-and-so."
F.) "I felt really bad about it afterward."
G.) "I won't confess to anything!"
The answer is that none of these responses will get you off the hook. The Judge could simply reply:
A.) "You have still committed a crime."
B.) "That is irrelevant. You have still committed a crime."
C.) "Time doesn't make crimes go away."
D.) "Plenty of people got hurt. You just didn't see it."
E.) "You also weren't as good as you were required to be."
F.) "Plenty of people felt really bad about it afterwards. Your bad feeling doesn't correct your crime."
G.) "I will base My decision on the evidence, then, and the evidence against you is very strong. Your silence will not excuse you."
You're still guilty of robbing a bank. You still deserve to be punished for robbing a bank. Those who believe in a works-based theology must hold that one or more of the above will be acceptable excuses before a Judge who has to punish sin. They will not be.
Now, let's take this scenario one step further. Suppose you discovered, sometime before your trial, that Someone has already paid the penalty on your behalf, and that He did this, knowing He was an innocent party, but realizing that the penalty is higher than what you yourself can pay. How quickly would you point to that fact in court? The fact is that this is the only way true justice can be done: Either you pay the penalty, or someone else pays the penalty on your behalf. There is no third option. Any hopes of another way are mere fantasy. Christianity holds that Someone has paid our penalty. Other faiths hold that one of their excuses will get them off the hook before a perfectly Just Judge. Other faiths have excuses. Christianity has grace.

One of the most convincing reasons, in my view, for accepting Christianity has to do with the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy by Jesus. Before we look at some of the prophecies (although we do not have space to cover all of them that I would like to present), let me address two common objections to the argument.

Some will immediately say, "Wait a minute. You're going to use the Bible to prove the Bible. That's a circular argument!" The problem with this objection is twofold. First, it fails to recognize the nature of the Bible. The Bible is not a single book. Rather, it is a collection of 66 different books, collected over a period of about 1,500 years, written on three continents and in three different languages by at least 40 different authors (though likely more than this). Second, we have non-Christian historical records about the life of Christ. Thus, we do not have to rely entirely on the Bible to verify that Jesus fulfilled certain prophecies, although we have no reason to doubt the reliability of the Gospel writers.

Others will argue that the Gospel writers simply made up the parts of Jesus' life where He fulfilled prophecy. This objection falls apart when examined. The person who makes it likely does not realize that many of the prophecies were fulfilled publicly. That is, they were not fulfilled in private. The contemporaries of Jesus would have seen them fulfilled in Him. Take, as an example, the coming of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey. This was not done in private, but in full view of the common people, as well as the Jewish leaders. Furthermore, again, even the non-Christian sources verify some of the things concerning the life of Christ.

I do not have space to go through all of the prophecies that I would like to. However, I will go over some sections of Scripture which were considered to be Messianic prior to Jesus' day.

Psalm 2 was recognized as a Messianic Psalm and makes it clear that the Messiah, the anointed One, would be the Son of God.

Psalm 110 was recognized as a Messianic Psalm and is quoted as being fulfilled in Jesus. In it, King David boldly proclaims,
"The LORD said to my Lord, 'Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool'"
This shows that the Messiah, though a descendant of David, is greater than David, since David calls the Messiah, "my Lord." In addition, Psalm 110 makes it clear that the Messiah would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. It states,
"The LORD has sworn and will not relent, 'You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek"
In this way, the Messiah would not be a priest after the order of Aaron, who had a high priest who entered the Holy of Holies once each year to provide purification for the sins of the people (The earthly place is a type of the actual). Rather, the Messiah would be our High Priest who would enter into the Holy of Holies once for all, not year after year as the high priest according to the order of Aaron did.

Psalm 22 was recognized as a Messianic Psalm, and tells how the Messiah would be forsaken, ridiculed, surrounded, pierced through His hands and His feet, have His garments divided, and that this work would be retold to generation after generation. This all happened publicly at the cross.

Deuteronomy 18:15-19 declares plainly the God would raise up from the Israelites a prophet like Moses. This is amazing, since Deuteronomy 34 states plainly that Moses knew the LORD "face to face." This means that the prophet which is raised up must know the LORD face to face. This is amazing, since several events in the life of Jesus Christ make it clear that He had this type of relationship with the LORD.

Micah 5:2 clearly states that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

Isaiah 7:14 clearly states that the Messiah would be born of a virgin.

Isaiah 42, the first of Isaiah's four "Servant Songs," states,
"Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to bee heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands shall wait for His law."
Isaiah 49, the second of Isaiah's four "Servant Songs," states,
"And now the LORD says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and My God shall be My strength), indeed He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.'........In an acceptable time I have heard You, and in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You as a covenant to the people, to restore the earth, to cause them to inherit the desolate heritages; That You may say to the prisoners, 'Go forth', to those who are in darkness, 'Show yourselves.'"
Isaiah 50, the third of Isaiah's four "Servant Songs," states,
"The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to hear as the learned. The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, nor did I turn away. I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting."
Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the fourth and final of Isaiah's four "Servant Songs," states,
"Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men; So shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; For what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider. Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked--But with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."
Do these four Servant Songs make you think of anyone particular?

Again, there are other Messianic passages that we could cover, and this is only a taste of them. When you look at the portrait of the Messiah painted throughout the Hebrew Bible, you end up with a portrait of Jesus Christ.

The Resurrection of Jesus is evidenced by historical facts.
In addition to the reasons presented above, I am also a Christian because I see the strong historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus was resurrected, this would be the ultimate vindication of His claims to be sinless and to be God in the flesh. There are several basic historical facts that are agreed upon by virtually all scholars, both Christian and non-Christian. These include:

1.) The crucifixion of Jesus.
2.) The burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea.
3.) The discovery of the empty tomb by women disciples.
4.) The sudden belief in the bodily resurrection of Christ on the part of the disciples.

I have gone into some detail about this argument in this article. However, the main point that needs to be made is this: The only idea that explains all of these historical facts is that Jesus was raised bodily from the dead. All other theories, such as the theory that the disciples stole the body, fail to account for one or more of these facts. Furthermore, other facts could be added, which makes any other view than the Resurrection appear even more absurd.

Finally, I am a Christian because I experience the inner witness of the Holy Spirit to the truth of the Christian faith. I understand firsthand what Paul meant when he wrote,
"The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children."
Again, this article is not exhaustive, but introductory. If you would like a follow-up to this article that goes more in-depth in any of these areas, leave a comment and let me know.

If you are not a Christian, I would urge you not to resist God's grace. If you would like to know more about becoming a Christian, or would like to give your life to Christ, and want someone to walk with you, use the Contact Us tab and let us know. We would love to be able to help you.

[1] C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity". 


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