How to summarize Christianity?

How do we understand and explain Christianity in a way that does not contradict our daily experience of reality?

The context:

I recently tried explaining why we sang so many songs at Mass to a Japanese non-Christian, and wound up trying to summarize why we go to Mass, why we celebrate on Sunday. In other words, I tried to briefly answer the questions, “Why do we sing throughout the Liturgy? What is the reason for our joy?”

Trying to summarize Christianity to someone who knows nothing about it and is of a culture foreign to it gave me great pause, as it seemed “an absurd, strange cult”. I said basically the following – I had to try to be succinct and use simple language, because it was during an English lesson and they had paid to study English, not to be evangelized. (To clarify the context, it was asked by a student on-topic during free discussion time, so it seemed appropriate to answer and move on.)

[quote=“paraphrasing what I said (simple vocabulary explanation)”]We sing because we are expressing our happiness and praise for what God has done for us. We’ve all done bad things, right? Well, God became man two thousand years ago, as Jesus, and suffered for those bad things we’ve done so that we wouldn’t have to suffer for them, so that we could go to heaven if we live together with Jesus, if we live the way Jesus wants us to. So God, as man, Jesus, suffered and died, on Friday, and He came back to life in a better, more glorious way on Sunday. So that’s why we celebrate on Sunday, and sing songs to show our happiness and praise and thank God for all this.

It appears that although I understand a great deal about morality and the particulars of the faith, I really don’t understand the big picture at all. There are so many problems with this explanation; if I were not already Christian, certainly I should want no part of such a story.

Okay, so we might say the problem was that I was trying to explain a profound topic using simple language, and it requires more profound philosophy to do the topic justice. Even so, this explanation seems not much better:

[quote=“deeper explanation”]God, our creator, created humanity as one body, integrally related to each other. As one being, then, in Adam, we all are guilty of original sin: We all have chosen to follow our own will, rather than God’s will. This is why there is so much suffering and evil in the world. To solve this problem, God became man, Jesus, creating a new body for humanity. If we leave this first body ruined by original sin, and join this new sinless body of Christ, through Baptism, the Eucharist, and uniting our will to God’s will, choosing God’s will rather than our own, we may obtain peace and live in perfect happiness as God originally planned for us. We therefore sing our joy because we have this opportunity to live as we were intended, and we do so on Sunday because that was the day Jesus finished preparing this sinless body for humanity.

The problem with this explanation is much the same: It doesn’t appear to describe our experience. We don’t experience being one entity with all of humanity, but instead experience reality as individual, separate beings. In summary, it appears Christianity requires rejecting our actual experience in favor of a proposed philosophy.

How do we understand and explain Christianity in a way that does not contradict our daily experience of reality? The problem runs throughout the entire religion: Every encounter with God requires rejecting the reality I actually experience. “It’s Jesus, not bread”, “God is forgiving me, not a man sitting in a chair”, “She’s being reborn with the Holy Spirit, not merely having water poured on her head.” I don’t see how to embrace Christianity in a way that affirms my daily experiences. (This includes my relationship with God: I don’t see how I can affirm God as Loving Father or Jesus as Divine Physician when they refuse to heal me or explain why I must suffer.)

The only answer I see is, “You must have faith, and await the explanation after you die.” After all, if you tell someone of the surprise birthday party you have planned, it ruins the joy which is greater than if they know what’s coming. So this would explain why They won’t tell me why They haven’t healed me. With faith, regarding the Sacraments, we can declare “both/and” because the priest sitting in the chair doesn’t preclude the possibility of God forgiving us simultaneously; even the Eucharist appearing as bread doesn’t prevent the possibility that it’s Jesus’ Body: Creation ex nihilo is a greater feat than transsubstantiation (x from 0 is a greater feat than y looking like x).

But regarding the idea that man is one integrally-connected entity, even though many beings, this does appear to me to contradict (not only surpass) our experience as individual beings. For example, while writing this post, many people have probably died around the world, and many fetuses will be murdered today at “Planned Barrenhood”, etc. I appear utterly unaffected by such deaths in remote parts of the world. Am I to suppose that my sadness, perhaps even my physical pain, is caused by their deaths? How can I affirm this without it being an ad hoc explanation (and thus not worthy of belief)?

Perhaps we can think of humanity as like the mesh in a coat of chainmail (or “thread in a tapestry” to use the analogy in Dreamworks’ Prince of Egypt): Each link is its own link, yes, but they are connected into one body. So we see it’s not really a contradiction, and that we can affirm both our individual experience and assert being one body.

[post 1 of 2]

[post 2 of 2]

But this seems to rephrase or get us to the real problem: Life is bitterly hard, and Christianity doesn’t make it any less difficult, so what good is it? Why should a Japanese person (or anyone) become Christian if it doesn’t make their lives any better? Rather, and here’s where Pascal’s Wager fails, Christianity means suffering more in this life, making your life worse, because it requires self-denial, sacrifice, helping others rather than yourself.

I suppose the good of it depends on whether it is true (in which case the good is arriving at our proper end), and whether one personally finds the worldview rewarding.

Well, no, what it means is that Christianity is explaining our actual experience of seeing others as individual, separate beings as the result of original sin which separated us from each other, which is why Adam and Eve covered themselves in shame because they felt isolated from each other and from God.

By loving others as ourselves we begin to see others in the reality of being “one entity” in God - the Body of Christ. If we truly love, we see even our enemies as part of being one in Christ.

I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me. 26 I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
(John 17:20-26)

Try CS Lewis’ Man or Rabbit?
Or text here:

Peter, that misses the point: The point is that we first must have an intelligible message so that it at least looks like a door worth knocking on, rather than a brick wall that we’re claiming is some magical portal.

Claiming that all of humanity is one entity, etc., requires some basis in daily life to interest people who have not been raised in a Christian culture, especially the Japanese, who are very “down-to-earth” and not philosophy-oriented.

You can’t. Christianity does in fact challenge the everyday experience. No getting around that.

The idea that an encounter with the transcendent God would be explainable on our terms is our own ego at work.

As a Christian, I take comfort that my experiences with God are out of the ordinary.

No magic. Just an experience of a person who is transcendent to us. If he appeared ordinary it would not be God at all.

The “one entity” is not without its correlative in Shintoism (Kami) and Taoism (Tao). Since Shintoism is the major religion of Japan (80% adherence) and given the idea of Kami that is central to it, I doubt very much your claim that the Japanese are not “philosophy-oriented” is accurate. That humanity is “one entity” with some connection to the divine is not a foreign concept to most Japanese.

Kami or shin (神) is defined in English as “god”, “spirit”, “spiritual essence”, all these terms meaning the energy generating a thing. Since the Japanese language does not distinguish between singular and plural, kami refers to the divinity, or sacred essence, that manifests in multiple forms. Rocks, trees, rivers, animals, places, and even people can be said to possess the nature of kami. Kami and people exist within the same world and share its interrelated complexity.

Man is separated from, not altogether in harmony with, Reality/Truth, the truth of who he is and the larger Truth that is the source of all that exists. Man lives a lie in one way or another, and that’s what makes all the deviance and evil and ugliness that we observe and may participate in, within human life, possible. Otherwise we’d all live in peace and innocence as the norm.

Jesus came, when the time was ripe in human history, to show us what we were made for, who we are, how we should and can live, what an authentic human being, living according to truth, is all about. And this true and perfect being very much contrasted with the world of man, which hated, rejected, and killed Him, putting truth to death once and for all so that they could continue to live as they preferred, continue to live according to lies, to remain in darkness and selfishness.

But that Truth, that Perfection, that Light, that Love, could not be vanquished; it rose again, triumphing over evil and death, showing us all the way back home to love and light and truth and harmony, if we’re willing to acknowledge the waywardness of ourselves and this world we live in, if we’re open and humble enough to hunger and thirst for a better way.


There was a time a Creator, a loving God,made the universe, the earth, man=Adam and a woman=Eve and gave them everything in a garden. They were given everything good to eat and drink. They needed nothing. They were told not to eat of this tree of good and evil. Eve was tempted by the devil in the form of a snake as he told her she would know everything God knows. Eve took a bite and then, Adam took a bite. Then God called them and told them they had to leave and drove them out of Eden. It was true. We do know all the evil things to do now. Adultery, murder. ignoring and denying God. Greed. He gave us the 10 commandments and Jesus summarized them down to 2 commandments. God sent Jesus, His son to redeem us from the sin of Adam. In order to open the gates of heaven, Jesus had to be tortured and crucified. He died, went to Hades and released some of the souls there. He brought Abraham.Moses, Jacob up to heaven. Jesus is written in Roman books as a rebel and states he was crucified. Writings of Josephus mention Jesus. So Jesus was crucified, died on the cross, descended into hades and freed souls, He walked the earth and was witnessed and He ascended into heaven. He who believes in Him shall not die but have everlasting life. So we love Jesus.If we deny Jesus He will deny us. We have problems as Christians. Atheists have problems as well as, Hindus and Buddists,etc. Satan was given control of the earth. But we have spiritual armor to put on.

Well, I don’t know if it is simple. I don’t know what has upset you. God answers all prayers. Some are yes, no and wait. Our sacramentals are not magic tricks.

I pray you find peace and the love of the Lord.
in Christ’s name

John 3:16
There is no better summary of our faith period…by the best theologian:thumbsup:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit