Thursday, July 7, 2011

What All Christians Should Know In Dealing With Skeptics

Hi,

Like many I struggle with my faith a lot.

A Hindu told me that John 1:1 is a direct rip off of the Vedas. He claimed that the Vedas said, "In the beginning there was God and the word was with God and the word was God." This is really shaking my faith in the Bible.. and I was wondering if you could tell me anything about this assertion. I've looked everywhere but I haven't been able to find any information on this.

I know that the supernatural exists but according to Hindus, even though I worship Christ I am worshiping their god through him.

Andre

Hi Andre,

Thank you so much for writing. Your question is similar to many that I have received and I would like to take some time to really explore this issue. As Christianity becomes more marginalized in today's culture, these type of objections are becoming more and more common, be they from a religious adherent or an atheist. However, most Christians don't know how to correctly respond and are left confused or doubting what they believe and more importantly why they believe it. Let's take a closer look at what your friend is saying and see how well it stands up.

The first thing we notice in the exchange is that the Hindu is making an assertion - John 1:1 is a "rip off of the Vedas". Notice he is the one asserting a fact. This is vitally important in how we deal with the claim. No one is debating what John 1:1 says. Rather, the skeptic is trying to claim that John 1:1 was copied from an earlier source - one with Hindu origins.

First Ask For Evidence

When the skeptic makes a claim, the first thing we should do as astute Christians is ask him or her for evidence to back up their assertion. If what they say is true, then there should be some evidence or proof to back up their claim. This is very reasonable. In fact, this principle provides the basis for mathematics, science, law, medicine, and philosophy.

Unfortunately, though, many Christians when faced with this type of situation generally retreat into a defensive position. They feel that it is the Christian's responsibility to go out and find similar claims and then find the evidence that debunks those claims. That's nonsense. You see, the Christian hasn't made the assertion, the skeptic has. Therefore, it is up to the skeptic to provide the proof.

I think my first approach with your Hindu friend would be to question his assertion. You might say something like "Oh, really? The Vedas contain the John 1:1 passage word for word? Where? In what section of the Vedas? Can you show it to me?" By asking for evidence, you've accomplished two things: You have not allowed the skeptic to make an unsubstantiated claim, and you've not allowed them to trick you into always providing answers to whatever objections pop into their heads.

He Who Asserts Must Prove

This is not a situation that is exclusive to competing religious claims, either. Imagine the following dialog:

SKEPTIC: "How can you Christians believe the book of Genesis to be true? All you are relying on is blind faith."
CHRISTIAN: "So, you're saying believing in something by faith alone is wrong?"
SKEPTIC: "Yes. Science has proven that stuff to be nonsense."
CHRISTIAN: "Oh really? How has science proved that?"
SKEPTIC: "Well, evolution proves it. Scientists have shown evolution to be true."
CHRISTIAN: "Scientists have shown evolution to be true? Just exactly which scientists? Exactly how have they proven evolution true?"
SKEPTIC: "All the scientists! Everyone knows that."
CHRISTIAN: "Well, there are great differences in evolutionary theory in the scientific community. Can you tell me just which version you mean? Tell me which studies you're referring to so I can look at them and address those issues."
SKEPTIC: "I don't know which studies. All I know is that they proved it!"
CHRISTIAN: "Actually, it doesn't sound like you do know. You can't tell me which scientists to which you're referring, you can't tell me which study and you can't tell me how it was proven true. Just where did you get this information?"
SKEPTIC: "It's common knowledge. You hear it all the time."
CHRISTIAN: "Just because you hear something a lot doesn't make it true. At Christmas I hear about Santa all the time, too. That doesn't make him real. What you're asking me to do is believe in evolution without providing me any evidence for doing so. I'm sorry, but I can't do that. I can't just accept what you say as true just because you say it. That would mean I would have to believe it by faith alone, and you just said that was wrong."

It seems that many people who object to Christianity want the Christians to do all the work and provide an answer for every nuance of their belief system, but don't feel that they are obligated to do the same. What bothers me is many Christians accept that premise and do a lot of work when the person objecting really wasn't interested in the truth to begin with. Now, some people are sincerely seeking answers, and we should be able to give them good reasons for believing why we believe. But if the skeptic feels it is important for you to have reasons for your faith, then they should be equally accountable.

My guess is that if you confront your Hindu friend and ask to see exactly which passages are in question, you will get one of two responses. Either they won't be able to find the verse in the Vedas as they claimed, or they will produce a verse, but it will actually read quite differently and hold a different meaning than John 1:1. (A third possibility is that there may be some real similarities to the Biblical passage. However, then it's important to see if the competing passage is not just plagiarizing from the Biblical account instead of the other way around. For more on this, see our article "Is the Bible Plagiarized From Other Religions?").

I will pray for you Andre, and I hope you realize that Christianity is second to none in the amount of solid, reliable evidence to back up its claims. The Christian faith is based on the truth of Christ's life and His death and resurrection. It has been vehemently attacked for the last two thousand years and has always held up under the most intense scrutiny because of one thing - it is true. Just remember, when someone questions you about your faith, you have every right to question them about theirs. If they don't want to defend their views, then you are under no obligation to do so either. God bless you as you grow in Him.

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