Basically Christian – Basic Christianity and my Letter to an Imaginary Friend

The papers keep coming! And someone thought I’d be too busy to blog while at school! Well, that’s true, but here’s what I’ve been writing anyways!

Recently I was asked to write a four page paper, a gospel presentation, based on what I had read in my textbook “Basic Christianity” by John Stott. It was a decent read, although probably would not be my first go-to for a gospel presentation. It was accurate and had the right stuff in it, I just think it could have been more personally engaging.

Anyways, when our teacher asked us to write this paper for our reading integration for the book, my thoughts were something like this: Why would I, if I were to present the gospel to a non-Christian friend, use something like an academic paper to do so? So, I emailed my teacher and asked him if I could do this presentation in a letter format, and he said yes! Thank you Dr. Loewen!

I have to admit, it’s hard writing “as I would to a friend” (a requirement for the gospel assignment) in the context of this school assignment, especially with all the accademic writing buzzing around in my head. This consequentially doesn’t truly represent how I would write a letter to a real friend on the gospel, or how I would present it orally for that matter. I probably wouldn’t think too hard about it to be honest, “so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power(1 Corinthians 2:5). Not to say that thinking through a gospel presentation is a bad idea – I’m so glad I did this, the more the better! I’m just saying that every encounter is going to be different, and a structured approach is not always going to be the best way to go about a personal introduction to Jesus. It’s going to be different for everyone. Just think about Peter’s gospel presentation to the Jews (Acts 2:14-41) vs. Paul’s address in the Athenian Areopagus (Acts 17:16-34), same message, super different approach, neither of them coming solely from the ones presenting it, but from God. I would like any presentation coming from me to be the same idea: simple message, powerful displays of God’s power, and led my the Holy Spirit to give a truly unique presentation and invitation to every different people group or person the gospel reaches.

I’m sad to say this presentation does not seem to be all it should be, but then again neither am I, and God uses me all the time (Phil 1:15-18). Anyways, with all its flaws, here is my presentation of the gospel to Caleb Johnson, my imaginary non-Christian friend in need of some Good News in his life:

Dr. Glenn Loewen

ST-100 The Christian Life

Prairie College

Date: Monday February 13, 2023

Dear Caleb,

            I know our conversation was cut short a little bit the week before you moved, and the last week you were here things all flew by so fast, what with helping you move and everything. I have been thinking about what we’ve been talking about, however, and I thought our conversation merited a more satisfying conclusion. I know you find what I believe to be at the very least fascinating (and maybe a bit strange), so without being too pushy I wanted to give you at least a more complete and well-thought-out picture of what I believe as a Christian. Not to “convert” you (as if that were something I believed was in the scope of my abilities), but I know that as the person you are, you cannot stand to have a mystery like this only half explained to you. Besides, I’m sure if you have been thinking about our conversation half as much as I have, you probably want to know the full story, which I attempted to give you at our last conversation on the subject. I decided to write to you to give you a better, more concise and accurate picture of what I believe in as the foundation and gateway to the Christian faith: Jesus’ gospel.

            The first thing I’d like to do is give you the picture that Jesus himself gave, and then I hope to flesh it out more with the help of a good book I have just finished: Basic Christianity by John Stott.

When Jesus started his ministry, he started with this simple message: “‘Now is the fullness of time,’ [Jesus] said, ‘and the kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins, and believe in the Good News!’” (Mark 1:15, TLV) Jesus called all of us – in one three-year ministry he extended his hand to over eight billion people who have lived from the time of Adam to today. He called everyone (you and I) to believe in the Good News (or, the gospel) and to turn away from all that did not align with it. This language may sound familiar to you, or it may not. What the “Good News” is has been somewhat debated as to what language should be used in describing it, but no matter the denomination or branch of the Christian faith you consult, I hope you will find something similar to what I am about to present to you over the course of this letter, using what I think is a trustworthy source for guidance.

            The first thing you or I need to do if we are going to look into anything seriously (as an alternative to our current beliefs anyway) is to consider the possibility that some of our own views may be wrong.[1] This is something simple for people like you who love science or any other discipline that is constantly being bombarded with different opinions, each point of view seeing some things that the others maybe do not. As with science, so with theology. An interesting phrase common in discussions about nutrition these days is something like “the science has changed”. This is perfectly fine if someone is only referring to science as the human understanding of science. However, if someone is considering science to be the objective and universal reality of the universe, we know that a phrase like that really means something like we have changed our minds about science (that is, discovered more of the facts, or disproved old ones). I hope that you’ll realize that this discussion does not ask you to give up any convictions that you might have concerning the nature of the universe (although it may come as a consequence, depending on the kinds of beliefs you do hold), however, it will challenge you, if this letter is done right, to consider another understanding of the nature of the things you believe (that we have in common in a lot of cases), and possibly introduce some new “facts” that will help you make sense of what you already do know.

            To start our conversation about the gospel, we have to start with Jesus. Who was he? In the most basic sense he was a carpenter and a Jewish teacher who lived around the start of the first century AD. Stott makes his case for something beyond that by asking a few different questions: Who did Jesus himself claim to be, was his character consistent with those claims, and did the miraculous resurrection that was reported about Jesus really happen, and if so, is there any evidence for it? If we use the gospels as our main source (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) then it quickly becomes clear that Jesus did claim to be the Son of God (for example in John 10:36 and John 5:17, 18). But what did that mean? What does it mean to be the Son of God? Jesus’ self-centered teaching (his teaching about himself) was extraordinary in the way he portrays himself. He says that he came “that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10), but the most astonishing thing about this claim is not the claim to lead people towards life, but it’s rather the fact that he believed he was that life (Jn 17:3; 14:6; 6:35-40, 43-58). This rules out the idea that if Jesus was telling the truth, Jesus could have still just been an ordinary teacher or anything less than God himself. Either he was downright lying, himself deluded, or the Son of God. 

Stott also writes, however, that Jesus’ character actually does confirm his claims.[2] If we’re going to take Jesus’ claims seriously, we have to look at how he lived, and how people saw him. In the gospels, we see that all of his friends, enemies, and family all experienced his perfect nature in some way. If he is God, then by definition he has to be perfect, and although on its own it is very hard to prove that Jesus is God’s Son solely through his character, it does a lot to confirm that point. Even the accusations that Jesus’ enemies threw at him were either false or ended up being totally true, only they turned out to be good things that they didn’t agree with (for example, being friends with evil people, or working by healing them on a day of religious rest). This shows that Jesus was at the very least not hypocritical or two-sided in his teaching.

Jesus is also vindicated by his resurrection. This is possibly the proof of all proofs if somebody wants to prove that Jesus is who he said he is. Is the evidence for it really very convincing though? Well, we can be sure of at least a few things: that Jesus’ body disappeared after he died (we know because if it had not the ones in charge of it could have used it to disprove the resurrection),[3] that his graveclothes were left undisturbed (meaning that they could not have been “taken off” in the normal sense, as that would have disturbed them. Stott argues that he passed through them),[4] the disciples claimed that they had seen him (and that he had been seen by over 500 people, actually),[5] and that his disciples virtually became different people after he supposedly appeared to them (and not in the way you would expect after a tragic and final death).[6]

            All this is great, I know, and I wish you had the time for me to tell you more about it, but what is the relevance of all this? Well, Jesus told us something we already knew. Humans are not perfect. We fail, we do things that are wrong. I know that you know this, but the shocking thing is realizing what this, in the Christian worldview, has cost us. With God being perfect he cannot be in the presence of anything imperfect, and so when humanity rebelled against God, we cut ourselves off from the source of all life in the universe. This is what Christians call the problem of sin. Jesus came to bridge the gap that we had created in between us and God. He could have been content to leave us alone, or to destroy us completely (he would have been in the right to do so. After all, he made us and we turned on him), but instead he chose to reconcile us to himself by becoming a human being – by sending Jesus.

            Where we had caused physical, moral and spiritual damage (even death) to enter God’s world through what we do, Jesus came to bring physical, moral and spiritual healing. How did he do this? He died for us. “Christianity is a rescue religion. It declares that God has taken the initiative in Jesus Christ to rescue us from our sins”.[7] This is critical. Think of all the other religions you have encountered in the past. No other religion has this mentality, that rather than God being distant and us needing to do good to reach him, God has decided to do good to us by drawing near even though we had first rejected him. Jesus dying for us is the centre of the Christian faith: it fulfilled the requirement for us to be punished for our wrongs when Jesus took our place and provided an example for us to see what true self-sacrifice looks like – love is made out of this. God died for us, and now, in a sense, it is the human’s turn to die with him.

            How does someone respond to the kind of gift God provided? He made the way, and I cannot stress this enough, Caleb, that our dying for him does not earn what he did for us. We broke away. God’s forgiveness cannot be achieved by our own efforts. It is absolutely hopeless to think we could get back to God through the good things that we do. I don’t mean to sound too assertive here, but this is really important. 

            So, if someone cannot do good in order to get back to God, how is a person reunited with the Creator? Well, a person first has to decide that they want to be reunited with him. And I mean really decide. Being reconciled to God means acknowledging him for who he is, and he is Lord. That means we live for him. If we’re going to make such a choice, it’s going to cost us our own lives. That is, we give him our lives because he gave his up for us. Relationship with God, after we have counted the cost, starts with two simple things (and not things we do to “earn” our salvation): repenting and believing. Repentance is a conscious decision and intention to live in accordance with the will of God rather than our own will. That might sound a little simplistic, so let me put it on a deeper level. Repentance is turning around completely in thought, action, words and affections into alignment with the goodness, power, and love of God. This is what we are doing when we honestly declare that Jesus is our Lord. Paul, one of the early Christians, wrote this about salvation: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9). This is it. It is not too far away for anyone, and it is not too hard, in fact, it doesn’t depend on the recipient’s effort at all, but on God, who first loved us long before we ever could really know or love him. If someone were to ask me (and probably John Stott too), what they should do if they want to be saved, I would probably say what Paul did: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household” (Acts 16:31). Go to God and tell him who you want him to be for you – who you now know him to be. He will be more than happy to call you his beloved child and rescued treasure the moment you come to call him Lord and Saviour.

            Here’s to many more awesome conversations with you, and I hope this letter hasn’t bored you half to death.

                                                                                                            Your friend, 



Stott, John. Basic Christianity. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 



[1] John Stott, Basic Christianity, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008), 10.

[2] John Stott, Basic Christianity, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008), 29-39.

[3] John Stott, Basic Christianity, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008), 42-46.

[4] John Stott, Basic Christianity, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008), 46-49.

[5] John Stott, Basic Christianity, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008), 49-53.

[6] John Stott, Basic Christianity, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008), 53-55.

[7] John Stott, Basic Christianity, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008), 83.

Thank you all again for checking out my post! I hope you enjoyed this letter, even if it just retold you things you already know, and if you didn’t know them, I hope you are interested to find out more!

Anyways, I hope you are excited for more posts, because I’ve got a new podcast interview coming up that you hopefully won’t want to miss!

See you all next time!


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