Published July 30, 2013
How would you explain Christianity to someone who knew nothing about it?
The problem is that Christianity is so complex as to "confound the wise." (1 Cor. 1:27.) Even angels don't fully comprehend it. (1 Peter 1:12.) But it is also so simple that even a child can believe. (Matt. 18:2-6.)
Last year a former physics and chemistry teacher in Orwigsburg, PA, came up with a 250-word explanation of Christianity. And Tom Ritter is a somewhat unlikely person to do this. Although he is a Christian, he started out as an agnostic, has a skeptical attitude and thinks independently. In short, as his website says, "Tom Ritter had to examine almost every aspect of Christianity logically and skeptically before he would accept it and [be able to] explain it in plain language." His years of teaching high school undoubtedly impressed upon him the need to keep it simple.
Ritter sought and received approval of his explanation from two Protestant theologians and a Catholic priest. Here's how he puts it:God created man to be His friend.
God has other friends. The angels, but angels do not have our free will. The Trinity also make good company, but though They have different jobs, The Trinity think exactly alike. They are, after all, one Being.
This friendship, like any other, requires a conscious effort from both parties. God wants man to accept the hand of friendship freely, which means he can also refuse it. In short, He had to give man a free will, our tendency to think ourselves in charge, our human pride. If we accept it, this friendship lasts for eternity, a condition we call heaven. If we refuse this hand of friendship, however, because we are immortal, we exist forever in a state of isolation we call hell.
God also had to do something to show us how much He wanted that friendship and that this friendship was His doing, not ours. That something' was the voluntary death on the cross of Jesus, One of the Trinity and part of Himself.
We commit a lot of sins and cannot atone for most of these. For example, suppose you kill someone. How can you ever atone to that man's family, let alone the victim? Our acceptance of Jesus' Atonement pays for this sin and worse in God's eyes.
The payment also puts us in God's debt, which is precisely where He wants us, because God has important jobs and satisfying relationships for everyone who accepts this hand of friendship.
Simplistic? Perhaps. But we are to know and accept the Bible's truths "as a child," starting with the "milk" of the Gospel before moving on to the "meat" (1 Cor. 3:2, Hebrews 5:12). And we often need to be able to share it in that way before moving on to heavier doctrine. No wonder Ritter was known as a good teacher.
Of course, my favorite Gospel-in-a-nutshell is the explanation that Jesus gave to Nicodemus: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:16-17).
Live it. Share it. And rejoice in it!
Tom Ritter's 250-word explanation was provided for republication through Christian Newswire.
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