Considering all of the different topics of inquiry that a Christian layperson may choose to look at, as one seeks to find answers to how everything all fits together, there really are a significant number of areas to learn about. Obviously I don’t claim to be an expert in any of these areas, but in order for my faith to make sense to my mind, I wanted, at a minimum, to have a basic understanding or knowledge about how my faith in Jesus, fits into everything else that I see around me.
Interestingly enough, when we first become aware of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and through faith, become a child of God, by trusting in the completed work that Jesus did for us on the cross, and all of which that entails, the list of areas of interest can vary from person to person, as does the particular order that they are approached in. And even though we are talking about spiritual realities, from my mind’s perspective, it’s important for me to be able to tie in all of these areas together, so that I can have a reasonable and logical response, should I be questioned, about my faith .
If you check out my Christian Resources links webpage, you will find many links that provide both background plus selected detailed information on all of these topics (and many more).
Please bear in mind that I am just a layman and as such the terminology I use and the overviews I provide, are relatively basic. Also please note that the list of topics I am presenting below are NOT all inclusive and may or may not include topics that you deem worthy of investigation. Depending on what areas you look at, and in no particular order, your own list may be wider in scope than the list I’m presenting below. Nevertheless, for your consideration, as a basic starter, I present the following:
- Cosmology: The reality of the universe and how it all came about. This is an area that I have always found very interesting and I’ve spent a considerable amount of time looking into it. Basically, from the limited understanding that I have, it all comes down to whether you believe that everything just happened by random chance with no particular cause or reason self evident or you do see purpose and intelligent design displayed, which in itself implies an intelligent causal agent. It’s amazing the discoveries that are recently being made, which provide more than ample evidence that the universe has a cause and there is order and design. Consequently I am a proponent of Intelligent Design.
- Evolution: I personally think that the study of this topic is unavoidable because the basic tenants of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution are opposed to the tenants of Christianity. Basically we are told that everything we see around us came about by random undirected chance and is in effect, the direct result of natural evolutionary mutations that came about over time. Darwin never addressed the origin of life issues and what with the many recent discoveries within DNA and the wonders of the “simple cell”, there is more than ample evidence that random chance could not possibly be responsible for what we see in all the various life forms around us. I have no problem accepting evolution within microevolution (within a specific species) but I do not believe the evidence supports evolution within macroevolution, that transcends the boundaries of a single species.
- Creationism: This one can get a little complicated because of all the different variables that are in play. I’m not going to go into the major schools of thought but suffice to say that I think it is important to study this topic and come to a decision with regard to what position you adhere to with Creationism. The basic tenants of Creationism is that God is the source and cause of our universe and everything that we see around us. How God specifically did this and in what time constraints this was accomplished is the subject of the varied schools of thought.
- World Religions: This is an important topic to have a least a basic understanding on. Knowing the world’s major religions and the differences between them, both from a basic historical, belief and doctrinal perspective, is essential to understanding how Christianity differs from all other religions. Also having a basic understanding of ancient religions where many gods (polytheism) were worshipped, versus the worship of a singular god (monotheism) is important in appreciating the development of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islamic faiths).
- World History: Acquiring a basic working knowledge of the history of humanity provides a framework from which the development and expansion of the various world religions co-exist and it provides a “lay of the land” appreciation for the unfolding revelation of the Christian Bible, God’s revelation to humanity, including Abraham and the following Biblical patriarchs and the New Testament political and spiritual realities, especially with regard to the coming of the promised Messiah, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God who came in the flesh.
- Church History: This is a huge topic and in addition to the New Testament itself, includes the writings of the Church Fathers (ancient and influential Christian theologians and writers.), the growth of the Roman Catholic Church, the development and expansion of other breakaway groups within Christianity (Greek Orthodox Christianity as an example), not to mention the Protestant Reformation. I personally found it extremely rewarding to become at least basically conversant with the reasons for the Protestant Reformation and studying the doctrines and articles of faith for the Roman Catholic Church. To ignore the heritage of our Christian Church history is to not learn from or appreciate what has transpired in the past.
- Archeology: In particular, Biblical archeology, provides a vast amount of historical confirmation to the authenticity of the Holy Scriptures. Because Christianity is a religion that is rooted in history, becoming conversant with many of the archeological finds that have accumulated over the years adds an additional layer of trustworthy authentication to the Biblical narrative that Christians should be aware of.
- Textual Criticism: Textual criticism is the discipline that guides scholars in establishing what the authors of the Bible wrote. This is another huge topic but one in which all would do well to become at least, relatively conversant with. Christianity is unsurpassed with regard to available ancient manuscripts and by studying this topic, one becomes familiar with how we got and have the Bible we use today. Acquiring a basic working knowledge of this topic is a must to offset much of the misinformation about the Bible that is currently prevalent. And, don’t forget, check out the Dead Sea Scrolls.
- Historical Evidence for the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ: This particular topic cannot be over emphasized. There is an abundance of non-biblical and biblical evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, which every Christian should become relatively conversant with. There is an abundance of misinformation that circulates within the public at large on each of these aspects and if you are not at least relatively familiar with the various misinformation and the documented historical evidence that refutes this misinformation, the misinformation will continue to proliferate. This misinformation is continually brought up in conversations with non-believers so we need to be ready for it.
- Studying the Holy Scriptures: To say that this topic is vitally important would obviously be an understatement. One cannot exercise discernment without being knowledgeable in the Holy Scriptures. Being able to rightly divide the Word of God enables us to avoid error and in these times, as in all times, avoiding error is critical. Feeding on the Holy Scriptures is as important to us spiritually as eating food is to us physically. Coupled with prayer, these are the two vital means God has given us to keep in union with Him. Of all the items on this list, this is the most important, all else are secondary because prayerfully feeding on God’s Word enables us to focus on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!