The Limits of Accidental Christianity
guest post by J Warner Wallace*
Imagine that you and I are sitting in my family room. The television is turned off; it’s 5:20pm. I lean over and ask, “What channel is the weather report on?”
“I don’t really know,” you respond.
“Well, give me a channel number’” I insist.
“OK, channel 7,” you reply, shrugging your shoulders.
I turn on the television and switch over to channel 7. Lo and behold, the weather report is being broadcast at that very moment on the channel 7 nightly news. “Good call,” I proclaim as you grin with satisfaction. You made a proclamation about where the weather forecast was being broadcast and your claim about the truth was accurate. You were right. But you were only accidentally correct. You made that proclamation without any evidence to support your claim; you simply took a stab at it and happened to be correct. This doesn’t in any way diminish the “rightness” of your proclamation, but you came to it “by accident.”
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There are lots of us who are Christians in a very similar way. We have trusted in Jesus for our salvation; acknowledging that he paid the price for our sin on the cross. We acknowledge that He is God. We accept the essential orthodox teachings of classic Christianity. But if you asked us why we believe these things to be true, many of us would have little to offer. We just happened to guess the right channel. We’re accidental Christians. We happen to hold to the truth the same way that you guessed the right channel for the weather report.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter, I suppose, how you happened to come to the truth that channel 7 was broadcasting the weather. I guess the important thing is that we saw the weather report at the very location you happened to pick. But if someone happened to be listening to our conversation, do you think they would trust you to tell them when the next weather report was going to broadcast? I think they would know that you only found the first report accidentally. You had no evidence to support your selection, so there’s little reason to expect you to get it right the next time around.
Accidental Christians are saved just like those of us who have taken the time to study the evidence and can offer the solid reasons why we believe Christianity is true. But they aren’t trusted by those who are watching or listening to our conversations. Accidental Christianity has a hard time competing in the marketplace of ideas, especially when alternate worldviews are being argued evidentially. We happen to possess the truth. It’s time to prepare ourselves so that we can demonstrate our faith is well placed, reasonable and certainly not accidental.