Is Christianity Supernatural?

I finally picked up a copy of Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Christianity. Stark is a sociologist who tries to unravel the question of how Christianity became such a dominant religion in its first four centuries. There are some good points, but a number of ideas can easily lead to doubt about the validity of Christianity. For example, one question based off of some of his proposals is as follows:
If the rise of Christianity can be explained by natural (non-supernatural) means, and if its growth rate during that time is similar to those of other religious movements in their early years, does that invalidate Christianity’s claim of truth or uniqueness?

I’m eager to hear what you have to say. As I’ve tried to think through this, here are some preliminary thoughts:

1. Just because two growth rates are the same does not necessarily say anything about the validty of the truth claims of the religions in consideration. For example, to use an analogy from another sphere of life- I am sure that Enron and some other successful company posted the same growth curve over some period of time. But just because their growth curves were the same doesn’t mean the character of the companies were both the same.

2. Going off of that, from a historical angle, the validity of Christianity is really based on one single event: the resurrection of Jesus. If it happened, it’s true. If it didn’t, Christianity is false. All other sorts of “proof” (including the “success” of Christianity in its early years) can be debated.

3. This is not to say that I believe the rise of Christianity is not unique and evidence of its validity. I have not finished Stark’s book yet, but from what I’ve read there is definitely much to be proved in the above question in order for it to stand.

Well, that’s it for now. I’m gonna finish the book before I write any more. If you have some thoughts, especially if you’ve read Stark, please leave them here. You can also google him- a lot is written about him. Don’t forget to check out this site for some evangelical perspectives on this and other academic issues.

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6 Comments»

  James wrote @

I loved this book — it really helped cement for me why I’m doing campus ministry. Every chapter seemed to subvert some generalization I had about the growth of Christianity: relational conversions vs. mass conversions, women in leadership vs. the subjugation of women, growth through rich as well as the poor, caring for the sick as evangelism — this book was a goldmine to me!

  elderj wrote @

Well if James read it then I HAVE to read it!

  T.J. wrote @

It’s a good book, albeit not infallible. But i msut say I do like a lot of his claims about the faith and what makes it significant.

  seneca wrote @

1 – Today Christianity has about a billion followers and Islam has about twenty percent more, yet started 500 years later. I submit that Mohammed is a more effective spiritual leader than Christ.

2 – I personally do not believe that the Resurrection is important. Any new evidence that arises will be explained by theologians. They once demanded the the Sun circle the Earth and once approved of slavery. Religions bend to fit whatever arises.

3 – As Christianity has captured only one-sixth of the world with the aid of the Son of God himself, I would not call it unique, but ineffective.

Mike

  yucan wrote @

Seneca-

Thanks for the comments- I’d love to hear more. A couple of thoughts:

– Bigger may not always mean more effective.
– In what other ways do you think Mohammed was a more effective spiritual leader?

  seneca wrote @

In my opinion, bigger does mean more effective. When the Son of God comes to spread the Word, I do think, after two thousand years, that much more than one-sixth of the world should be believers.

The Mohammed comment was meant to simply demonstrate that Mohammedism is larger than Christianity.

Islam is characterized by gaining converts by the sword. Although Christianity has also been guilty of that, it has been much less so that Islam.

It is in the nature of Man that the technologically superior culture overpower the lesser culture and gain its resources. The superior also delivers its own religion.

The reasons why one is a follower of a certain religion have little to do with the superiority of that religion, but are related to the history of where you are born.


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