I recently spoke to two Mormon missionaries on my doorstep. When dialoguing with Mormons, I usually try to steer the conversation by asking this question: How do you know Mormonism is true? That's a reasonable question and one which Mormons are usually excited to answer. But it's a setup, and points to a fundamental flaw in their religion.
According to Mormonism, if a person prays about the Book of Mormon "with a sincere heart... he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost" (Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:4). If this is done, "your bosom shall burn within you" as confirmation of its truth (Doctrine and Covenants, 9:8). In other words, Mormons believe Mormonism is true because they have a personal conviction, a subjective revelation, a burning bosom.
Not only is this thinking flawed, it permeates our entire culture. Nowadays, people believe things are true, not because they can be objectively verified or proven, but because they can be passionately felt. This is the rotten fruit of relativism.
You've heard the saying, What's true for you, is not true for me. In some cases, that statement is accurate. Is it true that Fettuccini Alfredo is the best dish on earth? Well, to me it is. But that issue ultimately has to do with personal tastes, rather than objective facts. Now, is it true that little green men serve Fettuccini Alfredo on the darkside of the moon every Thursday night (PST)? No. Well, how do I know that? Because there's enough objective evidence about the moon -- its history, topography, inhabitability -- to sufficiently rule out the possibility. Earth's telescopes have scanned the moon for decades with nary a noodle sighted.
But what if my bosom burns within me? What if I have a dream or an overwhelming personal conviction that Green Cheese Cafe is open for business this Thursday, with a steaming hot plate of Fettuccini Alfredo waiting for me. Does this make it true?
The story is told about the day Abraham Lincoln debated a relativist. In pressing the man's illogical assertions, Lincoln asked, "Would you agree a cow has four legs?" "Of course," huffed the detractor. "What then if we agree to call the cow's tail a leg? Would then a cow have five legs?" The man thought for a moment, then replied, "Yes. If we agree that the tail is a leg, then cows have five legs." Lincoln replied, "No amount of debate and definition can turn a tail into a leg."
Burning bosoms, passionate dialogue and sincerity do not define truth. Factual correspondence, logic and evidence does.
When my Mormon friends go into their spiel about burning bosoms and personal convictions, I usually proceed along these lines: Do you believe the world is round? (Which, after a moment of hesitation and skepticism they must answer, Yes) Well, what if I believe the world is flat? In fact, I believe it so sincerely that I have prayed about it, received a burning bosom and am now an official member of The Flat Earth Society. This usually puts them in a bind. The point is obvious: No amount of belief can make the world flat; no amount of sincerity can make a tail a leg; no amount of conviction can make a religion true.
Now, here's the hinge of the discussion -- and the point where most people err: Christianity is more about objective facts than personal preferences. Most people think of religion as they do Fettuccini Alfredo. Religion is a matter of taste, they say, of personal preference. In other words, religious truth and scientific / historic truth are two different things.
This is what's so cool about Christianity, and one of the main reasons I abandoned my former beliefs in favor of it. Christianity's central claims are built upon objective, historically verifiable evidence. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are historic events which changed the course of history. You can see where He walked, where He preached, where He died and where His body once laid. Christianity is founded upon the Person of Christ; His ressurection is what separates Him from every other religious leader. Unless you're out to rewrite the evidence, it's indisputable. A small, ragtag group of Jewish misfits changed the world. How? Because of a lie? Because of a burning bosom? No because they physically heard and saw and touched Him (I Jn. 1:1-3), and poured out their lives, even unto death. It was far more than personal preferences that led them to the slaughter.
The Bible is the most authentic ancient historic manuscript in the world. We have far more archeological evidence of the Bible's factuality than any other historic document. It's reliability has been proven time and again. It's prophetic accurancy is stunning, predicting thousands of years beforehand about the coming of Christ, His life and death and return to earth, the fate of the Jewish people and the end of our age. Thousand of years ago, Scripture predicted the Middle East would usher in the Apocalypse. Here we are in 2006 with the Iran threatening to nuke the Jewish state. Coincidence?
Finally, the Bible's assessment of the human condition is coherent and frighteningly relevant. Though some firmly believe humans are essentially good and have it in themselves to create a utopia, our experience proves otherwise. Violence, crime, murder and hatred escalate, just as Scripture predicts (II Timothy 3:1-2). We live like kings and queens, fallen from our thrones, wandering the earth in search of our former glory. The Bible calls this sin, separation from God; it cripples each of us, and no matter how much we deny its presence, our existence carries the ugly stamp. Only as we concede these facts and surrender to Him, can we alter our plight and find peace.
How do I know Christianity's true? Not because I have a burning bosom or a strong conviction, but because of the facts. Conviction cannot make the world flat. Belief cannot make a religion right. Sincerity cannot make something true. Unless we're talking about Fettucini.