There are Christian essays and sermons that are titled “Why I am a Christian.” Sometimes this is done in answer to Russell’s “Why I am Not a Christian,” but not always, since the title is often relevant apart from this background. In any case, the “why” is ambiguous, and could be misleading in the context of Christian theology.
If the word means “how come,” or “for what reason,” or “by what cause” I became a Christian, then the answer, of course, is God’s foreordination in eternity, which he carried out by his omnipotence in history, and which resulted in my conversion by means of his Word and Spirit. If the word means “how come,” or “for what reason,” or “by what cause” I still am a Christian, then the answer, of course, is God’s foreordination in eternity, which he now sustains by his omnipotence in history, and which results in my continuance in the faith by means of his Word and Spirit.
The word “why” can refer to metaphysical causation or intellectual justification, and it seems a bare “why” is more appropriately associated with causation than justification, especially in a Christian context. This is because the Bible teaches that God is the one who converts a sinner, who causes a person to believe the gospel and to become a Christian. He may associate a person’s conversion and perseverance with arguments in support of the faith, but the arguments themselves are never the cause, or the “why,” of a person’s conversion and perseverance. The truth is there, and there are arguments to support it, but a person’s conversion and perseverance are never credited, in any degree, to his own appreciation of the rational merits of the Christian faith.
Thus a more apt title for these essays and sermons would be “Why I am right to be a Christian.” Also acceptable is “Why I am rational to be a Christian.” Or, to be more precise, “My communicable intellectual arguments that constitute a rational justification to be and to remain a Christian (although I did not become and do not remain a Christian because of these arguments, but rather by God’s promise and power).” In this case, precision destroys concision, but it is worth it to preserve God’s honor and to avoid misleading implications.
No matter how much a person likes the cosmological argument, and no matter how much he appreciates the historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ, he will not and he cannot become a Christian on the basis of these arguments and on the basis of his own agreement with them. These arguments have no power to convert him, and he has no power to convert himself. If nothing else happens other than his appreciation of these arguments, then the only possible effect is that he would become more convinced than before that he is doomed to hell. He would be just as far from salvation as before. God is the only power that saves, and he saves through the message of Jesus Christ with or without arguments.
Now, despite his smugness and confidence, the non-Christian has no understanding of the causes of unbelief. He thinks he is a non-Christian because he disagrees with this or that argument, or because he believes in evolution, or some other silly scientific view or stupid religion. But he really has no idea “why” he is a non-Christian. He can only offer arguments as to why he thinks he is correct and rational in being one. As I constantly emphasize, we ought to attack these arguments with overwhelming force, and completely devastate the non-Christian’s pride and his estimation of his own intelligence.
Here I also urge that we should add to our repertoire essays and sermons on “Why You are Not a Christian.” The Christian can make specific points tailored to his audience, but most of them should fall under three categories:
First, “You are not a Christian, because you are not intelligent.” A person is a non-Christian because he is stupid. As Paul writes, “Their thoughts are useless, and their stupid minds are in the dark. They claim to be wise, but they are fools” (Romans 1:21-22, CEV). The Christian faith is true, and obviously true, but the non-Christian cannot see this because he is a stupid person. He lacks the intelligence to grasp the simplest principles and to perceive the plainest facts. His mind is broken. He is a defective person. The Bible calls him moros. The non-Christian is a moron.
Second, “You are not a Christian, because you are not righteous.” A person is a non-Christian because he is sinful, wicked, and evil through and through. This characteristic operates closely with the previous one. As Paul also teaches, the non-Christian suppresses the truth because of his wickedness. That is, because the non-Christian is a bad person, and because he is no good, he refuses to see the truth. When the truth confronts him, or when it surfaces in his mind, he represses it and pushes it from his consciousness, and forces a smile on his face, pretending that nothing is wrong. The non-Christian is indeed a stupid, dishonest, and pathetic person.
When we witness the vain arguments and base behaviors of a non-Christian, it reminds us that we were once like him, a piece of garbage, intellectually and ethically bankrupt. It reminds us that what Jesus Christ did for us, and what he continues to do for us, is nothing short of a gracious salvation, and a mighty rescue. It is a removal of shame. Looking at the non-Christian, we realize that without Christ, we would be…that. Our Lord teaches us that without him we are nothing. This saying is true, and we do not resent it. Rather, when we are reminded of this truth, gratitude erupts from our hearts, tears from our eyes, and praise from our lips.
Third, “You are not a Christian, because you are not chosen.” God has destined and created some people for salvation, and destined and created all others for damnation. This is the doctrine of predestination, or the doctrine of election and reprobation. The Bible says that God is like a potter, who out of the same lump of clay would make some vessels for honorable use and some vessels for common use. Among other purposes, honorable vessels were used as decorations, to display the wealth and culture of the owner. These are like the Christians, the chosen ones, who display God’s grace, wisdom, power, and righteousness. Then, among other purposes, common vessels were used as toilets, to contain the excrements and such things. These are like the non-Christians, who contain the filth of this world and are full of grotesque and repulsive things.
Just as a lump of clay does not divide itself and make itself into vessels for various purposes, no man chooses what he is to be. Rather, God makes one into a vessel of honor, to be a bearer of his grace and power, and through whom he displays his divine mercy and forgiveness, and he makes another into a vessel of dishonor, to be a container of spiritual and intellectual refuse, and to be a target for his wrath and everlasting punishment. The Bible makes this the real explanation as to why a person is a non-Christian and why he remains a non-Christian. The previous two reasons are also biblical explanations, but they are secondary, and are the effects of this one. A reprobate is stupid and sinful, and remains stupid and sinful, because God makes him so.
A vessel cannot say to the potter, “Why have you made me like this?” Likewise, no one can challenge God’s decision to make a person into a reprobate, into a vessel of dishonor and of wrath. The person who cries that he is the master of his own soul and the captain of his own fate, says so with his mouth full of feces. That non-Christian who laughs and claims that there are no rational arguments for the Christian faith does it with excrements running down his face. Then, here is one who says he has too much tolerance to become a Christian, as he takes a large gulp of urine. And there is one who says that he has too much education, or that he is convinced of another religion, as he feasts on the mess on the bathroom floor. The picture is both comical and unappealing. When God wants to make a point, he does not do it in a half-baked manner.