May 16, 2020

Christianity is Not About Winning Arguments

In our day, we’re used to hearing people say things like “All religions are basically the same”, or “Religion is about teaching good morals.”

If you are a Bible-believing Christian, then you know that such statements are far from what the Bible teaches. All religions are not the same. And the primary message of the Christian faith is not about being nice to people or doing good things. In his book, Unparalleled: How Christianity’s Uniqueness Make It Compelling, Jared Wilson demonstrates what is different about Christianity and why that is so important. His aim in writing is to show why Christianity is not only true, but also beautiful and compelling. “Christianity has never made converts primarily by winning arguments but rather by capturing hearts.” (18).

Who God Is

In the first two chapters, Wilson demonstrates the uniqueness of the Christian God. Chapter 1 focuses on the fact that the Christian God is a personal God. He is not some far off, distant God that doesn’t care about His creation. He is a God who can be known—He reveals Himself to His people and is present with them. This is profoundly good news.

Chapter 2, titled ‘1+1+1 =1’ shows that God is Trinitarian—He is one God in three persons. No other faith makes such a claim. While hard for us to understand, God’s Trinitarian nature explains why we long for relationships, community, and love. As the triune God, the Father, Son, and Spirit have loved each other from all eternity, and true love can only be found in this God. 

The Person and Work of Christ

Chapters 5–7 focus on the person and work of Christ—namely, who He is and what He came to do. In chapter 5, Wilson focuses on the identity of Christ, showing that He was not just another ‘good teacher’—as so many espouse Him to be. While there are many today who believe in a kind of Jesus, sadly, this often doesn’t align with who Jesus Himself claimed to be. Jesus is often conceived of as merely a good moral teacher or some kind of prophet or guru.

But Wilson shows that Jesus, being God, must be embraced for who He Himself claimed to be. His consistent claims to divinity simply cannot be ignored. And if you doubt that He made such claims, simply read the Gospels and note how many times the Jews were furious with Him. Yes, Jesus was a great teacher—the greatest—but He was so much more than that. He was God in human flesh.

In Chapter 6—‘Winning By Dying’—Wilson reminds us that Jesus achieved salvation for His people in a surprising way. He came not as a warrior or a conqueror, as many had hoped He would, but rather as a suffering servant. He came to die for the sins of His people. He came to sacrifice Himself and take the punishment for sinners like you and me. The God-man was crucified.

As Christians, we know that’s not where the story ends. In chapter 7, Wilson focuses on Christ’s resurrection, unpacking how this was necessary for our salvation (Rom. 4:25). If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then Christianity falls apart (see 1 Cor. 15:14–17). But the Bible makes the radical claim that Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead. The disciples were persecuted for preaching about His resurrection and were willing to give their lives for this truth.

No other faith makes such a revolutionary contention. But that’s the centre of Christianity—that Jesus Christ, God-incarnate, died and rose again. The Bible claims that it really happened and was utterly necessary.

Knowing and Serving God

Christianity is also unique in that it teaches that sinful humans can actually know and serve God. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we can be justified—that is, declared right before God. Every other religion basically claims that the only way to be right with God is through your own works or good deeds.

Christianity turns that on its head and says that because of sin, that’s impossible. That’s why Jesus came to live, die, and rise for us, so that when we put our faith in Him, we can be saved. The message of Christianity is not about what we do, but what Christ has done. It is by God’s grace alone that we can be declared right with Him (chapter 8).

Having said that, we do continue to do good works as we serve Jesus throughout our lives. We don’t do this to earn our salvation, but because we love Jesus and want to serve Him (chapter 9). Christians serve God as they look forward to Jesus’ return. He will come back to judge everyone and make all things new. Those who have trusted in Him will live with Him forever. So we can look ahead with hope and confidence in what is to come.

Who We Are

You might have noticed that I missed out chapters 3 and 4! That was deliberate. Out of the whole of the book, these two chapters were most helpful to me.

They focus on what the Bible teaches about us—humanity. Chapter 3 is called, ‘Broken Mirrors: How the Christian View of Humanity is the Most Optimistic.’ In this chapter, Wilson shows us, from the Bible, how every human life is valuable. Every human being possesses intrinsic worth by virtue of being made in the image of the Creator.

Chapter 4 parallels chapter 3, and is titled, ‘Broken Mirrors: How the Christian View of Humanity is the Most Realistic.’ Having made the point that we are all made in God’s image and are in that sense sacred, Wilson also points that we are all fallen and sinful human beings. Any pride of bearing the imago Dei dissipates when we understand our failure to obey the God in whose image we’re made. Only one human in history has perfectly obeyed and reflected the Father, and His name is Jesus.

This is helpful in a day when many people talk about ‘identity’ and trying to work out who they are. In the Bible, God tells us who we are. We have a given identity as those made in God’s image. That provides an incredible sense of worth and value. But you can’t say that if you don’t believe in God. On the other hand, the Bible also explains why we humans can be so evil and treat one another the way we do. Sin has infected us to the core of our being, and because of our rebellion against God, we all deserve Hell. This reality is precisely what makes the gospel so glorious.

Jared Wilson set out to write a book that would not just demonstrate the truths of Christianity but also show why they are compelling. I believe he has done just that. Your non-Christian friend might not want to read the whole thing, but these are truths that Christians should know, believe, embrace, and love. This book will equip Christians to know and share their faith.

  • Lewis Campbell
    Lewis Campbell is pastor of Stonehaven Baptist Church in Stonehaven, Scotland. He is married to Rosie and they have one daughter.Read All by Lewis Campbell ›

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