A college student wrote me an e-mail yesterday. She was assigned an essay on "Why Christianity has grown and why it is so large?"
I know my answer may not be exactly what she wanted, but off the top of my head (where my hair used to be :-) I gave her this short response:
Hello College Student:
You ask me, why is Christianity so large? If you were asking me this when I was a guest on a radio interview I would answer "Because it is true and compelling."
But I doubt your teacher would appreciate that answer in your essay, though in a nutshell it IS the answer to your question.
St. Augustine said that everyone has an emptiness built into their very being that was put there by God and only he can fill that void. Mankind has always been on a search for truth, ultimate meaning to the universe and their existence. Existence demands an explanation! As we look out over the universe and our own personal lives philosophers have asked, "why does anything exist and is there any meaning in the universe, or do I just die and that is the end of it?
Many religions and philosophies have arisen to try to answer the yearning in the human heart. Where do I come from? What am I? I am significant or only a complex collection of molecules, hormones and electronics? Where am I going? Is there anything after death? Is there any meaning in the Universe?
Christianity is the best — no the only — satisfactory explanation of reality and that is why it has grown so large and been so compelling. It is not an irrational leap of faith. It is the only rational and philosophically sound explanation of reality.
Christianity centers on the fact that there is a real God who is infinite and personal. He created the universe like an artist creates a masterpiece and made humans in his image — able to love, communicate, create and think deep thoughts. Nothing else on the earth can do that. Mankind has been given a desire to find answers and the answer is the Christian God.
In the fullness of time God send his Son Jesus who explained God more fully and in the end rose from the dead. EVERYTHING in Christianity rests on the fact that Jesus destroyed death by raising from the dead and promises us resurrection from the dead too — at the end of time. Paul said that if there is no resurrection then "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!" No more true a philosophical statement has ever been made. If there is no God, no ultimate reference point then all of live is absurd — a sick joke. Nothing awaits us but to be worm food.
But, Christianity promises that there IS a resurrection and therefore is very attractive to people who think about their life and don't just ignore the bigger questions.
Mankind has always sought meaning and the hope of eternal life. Jesus came to provide it and prove it. This is why Christianity has grown — it soundly and perfectly answers the yearnings of the human heart.
Why has it grown and how big is it? It is the largest religion in the world. Jews make up only 6 million people. Islam is about 1.3 billion. Christianity is well over 2 billion people strong, with over 1 billion being Catholic. There are many reasons why it has grown: sociological reasons, religious and spiritual reasons and more.
I have on my blog a map which shows it growth compared with other religions over the centuries. You may find it interesting and helpful. Click here. I have charts and more here is you want to see them, but I know you are probably in a hurry and don't need a bushel basket of info.
If you want to talk more, please feel free to stop over or give me a call. I don't know if this is helpful or not, but I wrote it quickly and from the mind and heart and hope it is helpful.