Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Stephen Arterburn & John Shore's new book,
 Being Christian: Exploring Where You, God, and Life Connect, (Bethany House, 2008). 

Whether you’re a new believer who wants to discover more about your relationship with God or a longtime Christian who wants to deepen your faith, it’s valuable to explore the core beliefs that make you a Christian.

Here are answers to some key questions you may have about what it really means to be a Christian:

Questions about God and you:

“What’s the single most important thing I would have to believe in order to officially qualify as a Christian?” Everything about the faith is grounded in the conviction that Jesus Christ was both God and man – both divine and human. If you share that belief and place your trust in Jesus, you qualify.

“How does it make sense that God is at once Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?” While this isn’t rational, that doesn’t make it any less real. The reality of what God is like goes far beyond what you can grasp mentally. But keep in mind that, since the Bible reveals that God is love, you can use love for your frame of reference when you consider God’s nature. Just as love doesn’t make sense yet is still incredibly powerful, the three parts of God work together in mysterious and powerful ways, joined together in love.

“What is prayer?” Prayer is deliberately, attentively, and openly turning your mind to God. It’s having a two-way conversation with Him during which you both talk and listen. There’s no magic way you should pray; any type of prayer is just fine. But usually prayers fall into one of four main categories: supplication (asking for something), contrition (expressing regret for something you’ve said or done), intercession (inviting God to get directly involved in a situation), and gratitude (thanking God for something).

“Why does God allow evil to exist?” God allows evil to exist because He allows people with free will to exist – people who can choose to do either right or wrong. It wouldn’t be loving for God to take away our free will, so He doesn’t. But that means that evil happens, and that it’s so commonplace that it affects even our health (through disease) and our environment (through natural disasters) in ways we don’t fully understand. Still, God is in ultimate control of all He allows to happen, and He can transform even the greatest evil into something that accomplishes good purposes.

“If God is real, why doesn’t He once and for all just prove it?” God chooses not to prove His existence in empirically verifiable ways, preferring instead to motivate you to grow by seeking Him and constantly learning something new about Him. God’s mystery is actually a great gift, because it helps build your faith and leads you into never-ending adventures as you draw closer to Him.

Questions about God, you, and others:

“What should my attitude be toward Christians whose ideas or whose understanding of Christianity is different from mine?” Instead of trying to correct them right away, first focus on connecting with them. If you’re respectful and understanding toward them, you can both learn from each other and discover more about the truth together.

“What is the Great Commandment – and what makes it so great?” The commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said that He considered it to be the most important of all His teachings, so it’s important to pay attention to it.