How could I, as a white American living in 2013 be so pompous as claim to know that Christianity is true for all cultures, ethnicities, languages, places, and times?
Recently I found myself struggling with this question. I feel guilty even thinking that I could be so prideful as to make that claim. At first glance, it’s a valid concern. However, inspecting the underlying assumptions to the question allow me to see where the question makes faulty assertions.
There are a number of ways, philosophically speaking, to address this question, and I certainly have no intentions of being exhaustive here. However, I want to offer a few thoughts on this question.
First, to assume that I am the source of determining truth is prideful. So, the design of the question has a hidden charge that I make the claim to be the source of determining truth either by nature of who I am or where/when I live. If that is the case, then the charge is correct. The problem is that I don’t think that I am the source for determining truth. Christianity’s reference point is not me, but a series of people and evidences that demonstrate its authenticity. Christianity’s primary reference point is the person of Jesus Christ and the continued works and witness of the Holy Spirit in the life of human beings. So, it’s not as if I am singularly making this claim. There were eye-witnesses (apostles) who actually interacted with Jesus, saw his life, teaching, miracles, death, and resurrection. Beyond that, they also experienced the Spirit’s work in their lives in miraculous ways. They passed on this eye-witness account to others and those who trusted it were also able to access the same Spirit who was at work in the apostles. I am in that line of people who trusted the apostle’s account; I am one who offers my own account of the Spirit’s activity in my own life and the lives of those in my community of faith (the church). So, I am not claiming to be the source of determining truth. Instead, I am claiming that my own experience lines up with the experiences of others and reality as it is. And that experience is authenticated by an actual, historical person named Jesus Christ. He taught this would be the case for all people of all cultures, ethnicities, languages, places, and times.
Second, the question assumes that Christianity is primarily a western, American religion. So, who am I to impose that on others? That is a faulty assumption as well. Christianity has not historically been solely an American or even western religion, but primarily a world religion. Christianity finds its roots in the East, not the West. In fact, Christianity is on the decline in America today (and the European West) while many other parts of the world are seeing revival unmatched by any other point in history. Dr. J.P. Moreland describes this in Kingdom Triangle saying,
“Consider the following: Some estimate that in 1970, there were around 71,000,000 born-again Christians with a vision to reach out to the entire world for Christ. By 2000, there were 707,000,000, roughly 11 percent of the earth’s population! Up until 1960, Western Evangelicals outnumbered non-Western Evangelicals by two to one, but by 2000 non-Western (mostly Latinos, Africans, and Asians) lead by four to one, and the figure will be seven to one by 2010. Today missionaries are sent from non-Western than Western nations. At a church planting congress in 1998, representatives from Latin American countries set a staggering goal of planting 500,000 new churches by 2010 and – get this – progress up to 2005 indicates that the target will be reached! In fact, five nations have already reached their target goals and have set new ones! The Washington Times reported that the underground Christian church in China outnumbers the Communist party by 30 million people. They said, “One of the driving forces of Christianity’s growth in China has been its association with healing powers, particularly in rural areas where basic health services are lacking.”
So, Christianity is true, but that truth is not determined only by my own judgment. It is a world religion (not just American) that is authenticated to be true through the historical person of Jesus who gave evidence through his miraculous birth, life, miracles, teaching, death, and resurrection. Christianity is authenticated both by eye-witnesses who experienced this historical person named Jesus and by the activity of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Beyond this, people throughout history, times, and places (all over the world) have authenticated (and continue to authenticate) the claim that Christianity is true by experiencing the activity of the Holy Spirit in their lives. I am merely one voice of many.