The Problem with Agnosticism
I understand that you had questions and doubts about the claims of the Bible and even about how we are to interpret and apply the Bible. It seems to me that as a result of these unresolved questions that you took the fallback, default position which you call secular agnosticism. This is an understandable response.
I'd like to explore what Agnosticism really is and whether it is really even a viable position.
I have noticed there are many varieties of belief that people call Agnosticism. Here are some:
Perhaps you could add to this list yourself.
Please consider for a moment what God must be like, if there were a God. By the way, this is something that most Agnostics don't seem to do, or if they do consider it they do so superficially:
Some of the problems with the Agnostic position are as follows:
An analogy will help to explain these problems. When a human parent has a child, what do we observe? The parent loves the child, the parent helps the child to understand the purpose of life, and the parent helps the child to learn to behave. The parent spends quality and quantity time with the child, and has a very close, very intimate relationship with the child. The parent bases his or her whole life around the child, and thus we have the institution of family which is the closest bond there is (second to marriage).
Yet the Agnostic position makes God to be incapable or unwilling to love His created "children" — even a human parent does better. But how could God create a human parent who is better than the God who is the Creator of human parents? It is unthinkable. The Agnostic position must simply be incorrect. God must be far, far greater than the Agnostic gives Him credit for.
The Christian position concerning the nature and attributes of God perfectly fits what we know must be true about God. This is strong "scientific" evidence that Christianity is true.
To change the subject and explore the scientific evidences for Christianity, let me offer the following analysis.
The following truth-claims will be true if Christianity is true:
If there is strong evidence for each of these assertions, then the sensible conclusion is that the claims of Christianity are true. I will briefly review some of the truth-claims listed above. Please feel free to ask me more details about any of these.
Also, I should mention that if there is strong evidence for the truth-claims of Christianity, then we are obligated to strongly believe it and base our lives on it. Even the scientist who accepts the scientific evidence for a particular theory does this. Throughout history, scientists have been martyred rather than recant their belief in the scientific theory which they examined and determined must be true. As scientists of Truth, we must have the courage to live the Truth whenever we discover what it is. This attribute of so-called truth seekers is much lacking.
Many secular historians believe that Jesus was a historical character. There are some extra-biblical references to Jesus, the historical man. Josephus, the Jewish historian wrote about Jesus. A few Roman historians wrote about Jesus.
The disciples could not have effectively created a cohesive "false" story (1) concerning the life and teachings of Jesus, and (2) concerning His resurrection from the dead. The critics who attack the resurrection do so based on their bias that miracles can't happen. Demonstrating that the resurrection is a factual event is beyond the scope of this letter.
I should mention, that if the resurrection of Christ didn't happen, than Christianity collapses. Even the apostle Paul asserted that the resurrection is the cornerstone of Christianity. So I would wholeheartedly agree that if you can disprove the resurrection as being a factual historical event, that it is foolish to be a Christian. However, the evidence for the resurrection is very strong.
Why would the disciples of Jesus deliberately distort the teachings of Jesus? And how is it even possible that they did?
The copies of the writings of the disciples of Jesus have come down to us today in pretty much the same form as when they were first written. What we are reading is what they wrote. This can be adequately demonstrated. Also, the teachings of the church accurately reflect the teachings of Jesus which were passed-on from the apostles.
I wish to address two more of the questions you posed.
You wrote: "If I were born in a different family, in a different time, with a different religion, would I still be a Christian and be saved?"
My response: God chose where you would be born, and gave you the personality that you have, and He is actively seeking a relationship with you. These facts are true for all of us. God reveals the truth about Himself and about His plan progressively as each person is ready to receive it. A verse from the book of Romans in the Bible expresses this well:
Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20)
God has revealed to all of us:
The real question is not what other people do with the revelation God gives them, but what do I do about the revelation that God has given me?
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21)
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:28)
The fundamental spiritual problem of life is the problem of sin. Our sin separates us from God. People try many things to solve this spiritual problem and reconnect with God. A few examples: Astrology, Yoga, and New Age belief and practice. But these are all doomed to fail.
The only way we can restore our fellowship with God is through Jesus. Jesus is God Himself, who took on human flesh to provide a way to redeem us from our sin. We cannot redeem ourselves through our own efforts. God calls us to receive His gifts of grace and mercy. We must accept this sacrifice of Jesus to solve the sin problem.
Many people choose to ignore the call of God in their lives. Perhaps some wish to continue in their sin. Yet God continues to call.
You wrote: It seems so selfish just to "believe" in all this so that one can get to heaven and be saved.
My response: The real selfishness is that we humans, who have been created by God for the purpose of having an intimate relationship with Him; that we humans reject and ignore Him. We are like the wayward child who doesn't want to have anything to do with his parents but just wants to "live it up," to "do his own thing," and to "grab for all the gusto."
A loving child would honor his parents; a loving child would love his parents; a loving child would want to share his life with his parents; and a loving child would pray for them, help them, and serve them.
True selfishness is when we leave God out of our lives. The loving thing to do is to return the love God has for us — to not be a wayward child.
It is unfortunate that the emphasis of Christianity is often that we should believe so we can get our reward. But to use the human father / son analogy again: Is it loving for a son to love his father so his father will give him an inheritance when he dies? The son who really loves his father won't spend much time thinking about the inheritance, but will be obsessed with his love for his father. That is how we should be towards God.