If we think truth is determined by what is emotionally or pragmatically satisfying, then we will find ourselves always chasing the next great, wonderful thing that comes along—at least for the moment. In such a case, our life would be marked by an endless quest for personal fulfillment, hopping from idea to idea and from religion to religion.
Some people stop believing Christianity not so much because they think it’s false but because they think it just doesn’t work. As they look around, they might begin to think that other groups or ideas or religions just work better. These groups might seem to be rich, deep, and full of life, even offering a better community, a deeper purpose, and a more compelling vision for the world. On top of this, other groups might just seem, well, more fun.
In short, people don’t always stop following Christ for intellectual reasons. Some people stop because they enjoy other things more than Jesus. To them, Christianity just isn’t satisfying anymore. So how should you deal with this important issue? Here are a few thoughts.
Nothing but the Truth
First, we must remember that Christianity is worthy of our belief not because it always feels better—or even seems to work better than other systems—but because it is true. If Jesus is really the Son of God, if he really rose from the dead, if there really is eternal life only through him, then that is enough to make him worthy of following. And that won’t change even if the Christian life proves more difficult and more challenging than the other alternatives on the table.
After all, there are some false beliefs and false systems that may, at least for a while, give a greater level of emotional satisfaction than true beliefs and systems. I am reminded of the sci-fi film The Matrix, in which the machines have trapped millions of people in a digital dream world so that the machines can live off the bioelectricity produced by their bodies. There is little doubt that the dream world is much more satisfying and fulfilling for these people than the real world would be. Indeed, the latter is harsh, cold, and unpleasant. But the dream world is all a lie. And the theme of the movie is that it is better to know the truth and follow the truth—no matter how unpleasant—than it is to live a lie. In fact, when Neo is deciding to take the red pill or the blue pill, Morpheus is very clear about his promise: “Remember, all I am offering is the truth, nothing more.” He knows Neo will wake up to a less pleasant life. But that’s okay because the truth is what matters.
Here’s the point: we don’t follow Christianity merely because it makes us feel good or because it is emotionally satisfying but because it is true. This doesn’t mean, of course, that there aren’t pragmatic, practical, and even emotional benefits to Christianity. There are many, and we will talk more about these below. But we have to get the order right. As Os Guinness observes, “The Christian faith is not true because it works. It works because it is true.”1
If we reverse the order and begin to think that truth is determined by whatever works for us, then we will run into some serious problems. For one, such an approach would mean that everyone gets to create his own “truth.” After all, people differ—often quite significantly—over what they think “works” for them. For instance, if someone said she found Brazil’s Sunrise Valley religion—whose adherents believe they are aliens in human form—to be the most existentially compelling, then we would be forced to conclude that it is “true.” Indeed, such an approach would force us to conclude that just about any worldview were “true” as long as someone somewhere found that it worked for him.