Continuing in this tradition, Richard Dawkins writes that “the historical evidence that Jesus claimed any sort of divine status is minimal.” Yet in the Gospel of John 8:58, Christ says, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Not only does Christ claim to have existed before Abraham, but in using the term “I am” he is also invoking God’s own self-description as revealed to Moses at the burning bush. Christ also says “I and the Father are one” and “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father:’ The disciples seem to have gotten the message.They routinely referred to him as Ruler, Messiah, Son of David, King of the Jews, King of Israel, and Lord and Savior. On several occasions, Christ corrects and updates the Jewish scriptures, thus claiming for himself the authority of divine revelation. Christ also purports to forgive sins. Ordinarily an offense can be forgiven only by the person who has been wronged. It requires divine power to forgive sins perpetrated against others, and Christ claims precisely this kind of authority. He also insists, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and “I am the resurrection and the life.” The Jewish leaders of the time understood Christ to be assuming the traits of divinity, and in the Jewish monotheistic tradition, it is blasphemous for a man to claim to be God. That was the basis on which the Sanhedrin issued their death sentence against Christ.
It is impossible to remain neutral about these things. This is the message I have been trying to convey in this book. What can be said about Christ can also be said about Christianity. It matters. It is the very core and center of Western civilization. Many of the best things about our world are the result of Christianity, and some of the worst things are the result of its absence, or of moving away from it. Christianity’s central claims about God and the nature of reality are supported by the greatest discoveries of modern science and modern scholarship. There are good intellectual and moral reasons to embrace Christianity. For all its eloquence and vehemence, the atheist attack fails. Despite all this, there remains an all too human resistance on the part of many people to becoming Christians. They want to know what’s in it for them. This question may shock some Christians, but it is not a bad one. In a low sense, it can be taken to mean: how will Christianity give me financial success and a problem-free life? Christianity offers no such formula. The lives of Christians, far from being problem free, are often infused with struggle and sacrifice. In a higher sense, the undecided person is quite right to wonder how Christianity will make his life better. After all, he is considering not only whether to believe something but whether to base his life on it. Addressing myself specifically to unbelievers who possess an open mind, I conclude this book by enumerating some concrete ways in which Christianity can improve our lives.
First, Christianity makes sense of who we are in the world. All of us need a framework in which to understand reality, and part of Christianity’s appeal is that it is a worldview that makes things fit together. Science and reason are seamlessly integrated in a Christian framework, because modern science emerged from a Christian framework. Christianity has always embraced both reason and faith. While reason helps us to discover things about experience, faith helps us discover things that transcend experience. For limited, fallible humans like us, Christianity provides a comprehensive and believable account of who we are and why we are here.