This is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s something I’ve been asked about enough times I though it’d be worthwhile to go ahead and post here. I’ve mentioned before that one of the main reasons I decided to follow Yeshua (Jesus) is that in college, I sat down and figured out logically that that was the best option for life, and the one that made the most sense to me.
How did I do this? I asked myself a series of questions, going from general to specific, and researched and studied each one until I came up with an answer that satisfied me. I based each question past the first on my answer to the previous question, until I got to the point where my conclusions forced me to make a decision concerning my life’s path.
I’m not going to post my full thought process because frankly, that would take a book-length post, so I’m just putting up the questions themselves here. They’re not magic bullets, but they helped me think through the issues and break things down logically. If that’s helpful for you, feel free to use ’em.
- Is there a point to life?
- Is there a God or gods?
- What kind of God or gods is there – benevolent, malevolent, indifferent, some mixture…?
- What involvement and/or communication does this God or gods have with humans?
- What religions could possibly have had contact with a God or gods according to my conclusions so far? (when and how did they start, what do they say about the nature of God/gods, what do they say about the point of life and how does this compare to my conclusions?)
- How reliable is the source material that these religions are based on? How changed is the basic concept of the religion compared to when it was first started?
- What do these religions have to say about a) the state of the world, b) the future of humans in general and c) me in particular – my place in the world, etc?
- The basic starting point of at least four major religions is essentially the same (based on my answers to the last few questions). What points can I logically draw out of this as most probably being true, based on my conclusions about God interacting with humans?
- Is this essentially Judeo/Christian viewpoint on God logically viable based on all the above? (this is pretty much just me double-checking my logic so far)
- How does modern Judaism differ from ancient? What caused these changes? What changes were expected by the ancient Jews regarding their relationship with God?
- What was the ancient Jewish viewpoint on a Messiah, and how does it differ (if at all) from their modern viewpoint? If there are differences, what caused them and why?
- How reliable is the New Testament text? (this was not considered during the “source text” question due to Christianity coming after and being based on Judaism) Do we have a good historical record of Jesus, who he was and what he did and said?
- Does Jesus match the attributes of the Jewish Messiah expected at that time?
- What exactly did Jesus say about himself and his ministry? Did he consider himself to be the Jewish Messiah? What did his followers think about him?
- Did Jesus and his followers act like a cult? Did Jesus or his “high up” disciples gain anything through the ministry? What were their stated goals? How did the followers of Jesus act after his death?
- Did Jesus believe he was God? Was he sane? Was he a liar?
- Was the message of Jesus changed or corrupted by his followers after his death? Specifically, did Paul change the whole idea of Christianity?
- Based on all this, can I accept the possibility of the miracles listed throughout these accounts as actually happening? Did the resurrection happen?
- What do I do with all this?
Clearly, this doesn’t cover everything – this is just my more-or-less direct line of thought. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things that I went through as well, but hopefully I hit the most important thoughts here. Feel free to take or modify these as you like.