“Christianity is not true because Christians are hypocrites.”
Christianity sounds like a great thing, sure. Who doesn’t want to experience a life of giving, of community, and of a loving relationship with a personal God?
But then you see some of these Christians. You see them swear vividly at work and at school. You see them sneak pornography behind their spouses’ backs, sneak off to the bars after work, and lie to get ahead in their careers. The conclusion seems like a pretty clear one: Christianity is one big fat hoax.
I won’t pretend that this problem isn’t at least partially due to the faults of individual hypocritical Christians themselves, who bear at least part of the blame for driving people away from the faith. But they are not to bear the blame in its entirety, because as appealing as this argument may seem to people who have experienced the consequences of such hypocrisy – often by a close family member or friend – it is based on faulty reasoning.
Problem One: God Himself Deals with Hypocrisy of His People
If hypocrisy is meant to be detrimental to the message of the gospel, then God has an odd way of dealing with it – because half of the Bible is spent on God pointing out the sins of his people. In Isaiah 1, God describes his people as worse than Sodom (you know, that place God literally wiped off the face of the Earth), and tells them to stop doing useless worship because their hands are “covered with blood.”
This is not an atypical passage in the Old Testament. Far from it. Similar statements are made in other passages, where God likens the unfaithfulness of His people to prostitution (Ezekiel 16, for example). This trend continues in the New Testament, though admittedly to a lesser extent, where God strikes down a man and his wife for their hypocrisy, when they lie about their generosity in order to get a name for themselves (Acts 5).
So why does God spend so much time telling us about how horrible His people are? Isn’t that a bit counter-productive? No, because–
Problem Two: Christianity is about Christ, not His Supposed Followers
If Christianity was about His followers, then anyone claiming to be a Christian and living in a way that didn’t reflect that could discredit Christianity. But as it is, with the focus on Christ, the attack would have to be lobbed against Jesus, that Jesus was a hypocrite, in order for the charge to be legitimate. Truth is truth independent of whether people follow it or not. The discussion then becomes about what is the truth. The claim of the Christian is that man is in need of salvation, which can be found only in Jesus Christ. That someone lies about following this source of his or her salvation has no impact on the true source of the claim: that Jesus Christ is the source of salvation.
But you never seem to hear people claiming that Jesus was a hypocrite. That’s because it isn’t a defensible claim, and by and large, it’s easier to point to how sinful man is (a fact that no reasonable and consistent Christian disputes). But in fact, the sinfulness of man is not a point against Christianity, but rather a point for it. Because–
Problem Three: Christianity Posits that These People Are Sinners, Just Like the Critic
If the position from which this criticism is being lobbed is that Christians are sinners just like the rest of this, there is no argument there, no inconsistency. Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned. 1 John 1:10 posits that any who say they haven’t sinned are liars.
If any Christians claim that they are better than someone else because they are Christians, then they are not proclaiming Christianity. They are proclaiming a false, humanistic, meritorious religion rather than one that rests solely on the saving power of Jesus Christ. It would be rejecting the truth on the basis of a perversion of it to use the hypocrisy of individual Christians as a basis for skepticism.
Ultimately, to reject the saving power of Christ because others haven’t submitted themselves to Him is, in fact, quite a bit like refusing to go to the gym because there are fat people there.