Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

The death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus is not something to be taken lightly. It is not in the experience of most people to know of anyone who has died and then been brought back to life. A few of us may know people who have had near death experiences or even know of people whose heart have stopped and then been resuscitated, but not resurrected. So how do we get our minds around such a rare and hard to fathom event?

 

For me if Jesus did not rise from the dead there become a lot of unanswered questions. For me Jesus rising from the dead makes more sense of the situation than him not rising. Here is what I mean…

 

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then why was his body never found?  The Roman and religious authorities would have done all in their power to find the body. They hated this Christian uprising and to come up with a body would have put an end to it once and for all.

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead did the disciples really steal the body from the tomb and if so how? How did eleven men get past at least 12 highly trained guards, move a two ton stone and remove the body of Jesus? The Roman authorities started a rumour that the disciples stole the body whilst the guards were sleeping. However, how did the guards know this if they were asleep? If this were true surely all the guards would have been killed by the Roman authorities and the disciples hunted down as well?

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead perhaps he was not dead in the first place, revived in the cold tomb and escaped? The soldier guarding the cross pierced the side of Jesus and blood and water flowed out. It was only discovered centuries later that this only occurs after death, so we can be pretty certain that Jesus was dead. However, let’s suppose he did revive in the tomb. How would he have gotten out of His death clothes? How would this man that had just hung on a cross to an apparent death then roll a 2 ton stone away – there would have been no hand holds inside the tomb to aid him? Having miraculously moved the stone how did he then get past all the guards?

If Jesus did not rise from the dead what explains the sudden change in the disciples from cowering wrecks to emboldened preachers of the Gospel? Something happened to effect this change, what else could explain it? The disciples went from denying knowing Christ and hiding away in locked rooms to preaching in the market places and joyfully enduring tortured, imprisonment and being killed for the Gospel. How else would you explain it?

If Jesus did not rise from the dead how do you explain the hundreds of people who saw him alive after His crucifixion? Jesus appeared to His disciples but also to crowds of over 500 men. Was this mass hallucination the likes of which have never been seen before or since?

If Jesus did not rise from the dead why did the disciples (apart from one) all go to their deaths because of their belief that He did? They either saw him alive after the crucifixion or they didn’t. Would they have all been martyred for a lie or for a mistaken belief? All they would have had to do was say that He was never resurrected and all their lives would have been saved.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead would tens of thousands of Christians who would have had firsthand accounts of His resurrection believe in it enough to go to their deaths because of that belief? You’ve got to be pretty certain of your facts if you are willing to lay down your life for them. Do you believe that all these people went to their deaths because they had a vague belief that the resurrection had taken place?  No, they knew for certain!!

 

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead how do you explain the incredible rise of Christianity? Something spectacular must have happened for people to be convinced in such huge numbers.

 

So, the fact of Jesus rising from the dead is difficult to comprehend – it is so far from our experience that it would be strange if we found it easy.  However, what is the alternative? Jesus prophesised that he would rise again. God is all powerful and therefore could do it. Jesus had already brought Lazarus back from the dead.  Is it such a huge jump to believe Jesus came back from the dead? That angels rolled the stone away? If you’re not convinced I’d really love to hear your answers to the above questions.

 

As always if you have any questions please do ask them in a comment below.

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Many people don’t want to believe in the Christian faith until they understand everything about it.  This is very understandable – after all you don’t want to buy into something and later find things that shock you or you just can’t believe.  However, the problem with this is that, as humans, we will never be able to understand everything about the Christian faith. As finite beings we will never be able to understand an infinite God and His infinite ways.  It will never be possible.

 

In some respects that is the key.  When you understand that you will never be able to understand something, in some senses, you can stop trying. You can focus your energy on the things you can understand. If you speak to Christians you will find that Christianity hold no bad surprises.  You don’t suddenly discover that behind a front of goodness and love God is really an evil dictator – but because you’ve believed in Him for so long you just continue to believe in some sort of brain washed state.  God is who He says He is right from the start and the only surprising thing that you discover is that He never changes.  If you speak to Christians you will also discover that Christianity doesn’t give you all the answers to life’s questions. It does answer some of them and it puts even more into some sort of context but there will still be questions that we will never have answered. For centuries people, Christians and non-Christians alike, have grappled with the issues of suffering, evil, existence, conscience, love, death, the afterlife and so on. No satisfactory answers have been found and we will all continue to grapple with them. Christianity won’t give you neat, conclusive, simple answers to all of life’s big questions. However, it will give you context.  What I mean by this is that, for example, if you believe in a creator God who loves and wants the best for His creation it helps you to see things in a correct context.  In some respects it may appear to make things more difficult. If God loves His creation why does He allow it to suffer? Again there are no easy answers but we have a context within which to explore.  Is all suffering always bad? Is suffering caused by the freewill of others? Is God causing the suffering or just allowing it? If we see this world as the entirety of our existence does that change our view on suffering? What if we believe that this life is but a minute part of eternity?  If we see suffering as part of a much greater plan does that aid our understanding? If we truly believe that God is GOOD and He truly LOVES His creation how does that affect our view of suffering and God’s part in it? These are questions that Christians still have to work through but in the right context it brings far more meaning and understanding even if nice simple satisfying answers are never achieved. We constantly need to remember that the finite cannot understand the infinite.

It would be really nice to be able to put Christianity in a box, evaluate it, understand it and then decide whether to believe or not to believe. If only life were so simple. However, I do believe that the Christian faith is intellectually viable. To have faith in it is not blind faith. It is a faith worked out using our intellect and our experiences. We don’t have to understand everything about it to believe. Just as you don’t have to know how the engine of a car works in order to drive it. You need to know enough, you need to know what all (or at least most) of the buttons do, which pedal will make you go and which will make you stop.  You need to know what fuel to put in the tank and the fact that a service no and then with help prevent breakdown. However, you don’t need to know how the engine works or how the engine drives the wheels or how the fuel powers the engine in order to bring movement. Yes, the more you know the better it is, especially when things go wrong. If you can strip and engine down and rebuild it – great – but it is not essential to your everyday driving. The same is true with Christianity. You need to know enough but you certainly don’t need to know everything. You can learn more, if you choose to, along the way. That’s why we have churches and vicars and theologians to make up for what we don’t know.

 

However intelligent we are (or would like to believe we are) we will never understand the complexities of God – however hard we try. We can’t put God in a box and study Him. Trying to understand Him fully is a futile exercise which will only lead to frustration and ultimately dissatisfaction. We need to understand enough and ultimately understand that God is infinite and will never be fully understood. When we can understand that it is then that we can get into the car and drive away!

Some of the top minds over the centuries have argued for and against the existence of God. Neither side has won the argument and as no proof exists either way they probably never will. So how can I with slightly less a magnificent mind know what to believe?

 

However much I would like to be able to answer that question for you once and for all you and I know that that is not going to happen. There will never be any proof that God exists!  I also believe that there will never be any proof that He doesn’t exist.  So, just as Christianity will never be able to prove that God is who He says He is in the Bible, Science will never be able to prove that He doesn’t exist.  From a faith point of view I find that fairly comforting.  Some of the greatest minds in the world have tried to prove God exists with no success whatsoever. Now that doesn’t, of course, mean that because you can’t prove that He doesn’t exist that He does exist.  However, if you believe that the Bible was created by simple men of faith thousands of years ago you would have thought that the greatest scientific minds of the 21st century should be able to completely pick it apart and if not find proof at least find considerable fault with it. In reality this is not the case and in fact my scientists believe in God.

 

So if there is no proof how can I believe or indeed reject the claims of Christianity.  I believe one of the ways forward can be found in Matthew 7: 7. Here we are told that if we seek, we will find. This is expanded upon in the parable of the prodigal son. The parable tells of a son who leaves his father having asked for his inheritance early. The son goes off and spends all of his money on parties and fast living. He ends up poor and working on a pig farm. He is so hungry he considers eating the food of the pigs. It then occurs to him that even if he went back and worked as a servant for his father he would be much better off. He returns home to find that his father has been looking out for him every day and runs to meet him. The father throws a robe on him, puts a ring on his finger and throws as party to welcome him home, not as a servant but as his son. The parable shows that God is always on the lookout for us – if we seek Him he will run to us.  If we make the move towards him he will make a move towards us. Many people have seen this in their own lives.  As they have seriously sought God on their own or on courses like ALPHA or Christianity Explored God has moved towards them with open arms and revealed himself to them.

 

Many people have seriously looked for God just to rule his existence out and have ended up meeting Him in amazing ways. Many people, however, write God off before even examining the evidence or seeking him at all. I feel it a shame that something so potentially important can be written off so easily.  Science may offer different theories but Christianity, if true, offers so much more. Science offers little in the order of purpose, hope, freedom, reason, comfort or redemption.  Christianity offers all of those and lots more besides.  Surely those claims alone deserve to be looked into – even if just to write them off.

 

There is estimated to be up to 2.1 billion people in the world who would call themselves Christians. A friend who had no belief in God looked at this and concluded that they can’t all be mad and deluded!! He began to seek and discovered God for himself. I believe that the personal testimony of millions upon millions of people can’t just be discounted. It is the experience of millions of people around the world that God has moved in their life. It is not just the intellectual conclusion that they have come to that God exists, it is the consequent experience of Him in their lives. This may be in the form of healing, guidance, answered prayer, prophesy, miracles or a whole host of other things.

 

There may not be proof that God exists but there is, however, enough evidence to make His existence well worth looking in to!!

I have asked around to see what questions people would like to see answered through this blog. So, this is the first in a series of the questions that people have asked to have answered.

This question can be taken on a number of levels so I hope I can cover most of the angles. My first reaction was that I believe that religion is a human construct. Religion to me, along with many others has negative associations and connotations. To me religion is man’s reaction to the belief that God exists. If you strip Christianity down to it’s essentials all the bells and shackles fall away and you are left with a simple relationship between you and God through Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit. You don’t need rituals and doctrines, church buildings and church meetings. You don’t need the bells and smells, the lectionaries and holy days. Now, this is not to say that all these things are not helpful to people in their relationship with God, but they are not essential. In fact sometimes the trimmings of Christianity can get in the way of the relationship which needs to be at the centre. Christianity is less about religion and more about relationship.

So, I don’t need irrefutable proof that religion is man-made because I already believe that it is. Having said all that I know that that reading of the question was not what was meant. So, let me rephrase the question to hopefully bring about a little clarity for myself. What if the idea of the existence of God is a purely made up concept by man? What if irrefutable proof were found that God didn’t exist but was just a man-made idea?”

I have found this question quite a difficult one to get my head around. In some respects, for me, it’s been like trying to think of a new colour – a concept that is almost impossible to do. The piece I struggle with is the concept of finding irrefutable proof. Where would it come from? What would it look like? Would everyone accept it as irrefutable? In general terms it is far easier to prove that something exists than doesn’t exist. Photographs, film, footprints and I guess ultimately a body would prove to most people of the existence of the Abominable Snowman. However, what proof could there ever be that it didn’t exist?

People for thousands of years have tried to prove that God doesn’t exist. With all man’s intelligence, resources and theories no-one has even come close. In many ways Christians and Atheists are in the same boat. They both have strongly held beliefs that have no proof. They are either as wise or as stupid as each other. Both have weighed up the evidence and have drawn different, opposing, conclusions. The main difference, as I see it, is this. Some of you will have read this analogy before, but please bear with me.

When it comes to belief and faith I like to use the analogy of a chair. It’s perhaps because I’m quite a big guy so it is more relevant to me than others, but I hope you’ll understand the gist if it. When it comes to the question of belief in God billions of people around the world would say they believed in Him. Yet for only a much smaller percentage of the world’s population does that belief have any real meaning. Billions of people believe in God but far fewer have faith or trust in Him. Here is where the chair comes in. When it comes to a chair or a stool or anything you can sit on, when considering sitting on it we have to believe that it will take our weight. We don’t want to end up in a pile on the floor along with the remains of a chair that didn’t quite do the job. As a bigger than average chap I have to consider this more than most, especially when it comes to camping chairs or chairs that look less than robust. I can pick a chair up, examine it from every angle, pull it about, check the joints and even read the label for it’s weight limit. I can come to a stage where I can look at the chair and wholeheartedly believe that it will hold my weight. It is not, however, until I sit in the chair that I can be said to have moved from that belief in the strength of the chair to having faith that it will hold my weight. So it is with many people’s belief in God. They believe in His existence but have not yet moved to faith in Him. It is one thing to believe in God but another thing to put that belief into action by having faith in Him.

So with the Atheist they look at the chair, examine the chair, test it a little, read the safety label and come to the conclusion that the chair won’t hold their weight. With the Christian they also examine the chair, test it, read the safety label and come to the conclusion that the chair may well take their weight. However, for the engaged Christian they then take that belief a step further and sit down on the chair. It might feel a little wobbly, for a while they may feel uncertain that the chair will hold their weight but eventually the proof is in the sitting. Either the chair holds or it doesn’t. So, although in the testing of the chair the potential atheist and potential Christian are in the same boat it is when the Atheist walks away and the Christian sits that the difference occurs. The Atheist doesn’t continue his journey finding more and more proof for the non-existence of God. They don’t even continue, in a meaningful way, to experience the non-existence of God. However, for the Christian as they sit on the chair they start a journey where they begin to see God at work. They see prayers answered, they see prophesy fulfilled, they see things recorded in the Bible coming true, they experience the touch of God. Lots of little things that happen build up into an overall belief that God is real and working in their lives. Now, the atheist, quite understandably, will put this down to psychological factors, delusion, hype, hysteria and many other factors. However, to a Christian they are the same feelings as love, pain and fear. Things that you can’t always understand but are as real to you as anything you experience in the physical world.

Therefore, it is extremely hard to imagine irrefutable proof existing. It would be like finding irrefutable proof that pain or love didn’t exist. Once you have experienced something it is almost impossible to imagine not having experienced it. So, having said all that let me imagine that a proof did come forward that proved, without any shadow of a doubt, that God did not exist and that he was just a construct of the human imagination.

How does anyone react to something so huge? Something that was the centre of your life, that informed your thinking and your actions suddenly being swiped from under you. I guess you’ll get a much more objective answer now than if it really did happen. In the short term there would be a mixture of disbelief, confusion, anger, fear, despair, disappointment and so on. There would then follow a slow process of realignment where I’d have to get used to a new world view. However, in the long term I guess that not too much in my life would change on a day to day level. So why is that?

Many people who believe there is no God or just don’t know see religion as this big evil that suppresses the masses, spreads lies and is general a bad thing. However, and I’m speaking solely for Christianity here, I believe that the teachings of the Christian faith are basically an excellent way in which to live. If the Bible were proven to be a man written, man inspired, totally human creation I would still have to say that whoever wrote it was an extremely wise and informed person. I believe that if people followed the teaching of the Bible, whether they believed in the God behind it or not, the world would be a much better place. I have always found it hard to understand how someone, or indeed a society, with no faith can decide on the nature of right and wrong, just and unjust. This is not a criticism or saying that people with faith are better moral people. In fact the opposite is true. Christians have the perfect reason and motive to do good and yet we still do wrong. If you live in a society with no faith, no moral compass what is it that stops you living solely for yourself? How do you decide that it’s wrong to be cruel to animals but OK to eat them. What makes a civilised country civilised? How would a faithless society make laws and why would people abide by them? Most people would agree that they have within them a sense of decency, of right and wrong, good and bad etc. but where does that come from? Who is to say person A’s sense of right is better than person B’s when they differ? Having come to terms with there being no God these are the things that I would really struggle with.

So, I think my everyday actions (apart from dropping the Church services!!) would change very little. I would still believe that it was better to give than receive, love than hate, live at peace not war, care rather than ignore, treat people as I would like to be treated. I would still hold onto the teaching that it is a good thing not to murder, steal, lie, covet, commit adultery etc.

However, I believe that there would be a huge gap in my understanding of this world if I knew God did not exist. I do not believe science holds all the answers. The questions of Why am I here? What’s the point? Why bother? Why believe this? Why not live entirely for myself? What is my purpose? Why don’t we all just end it here? How do I decide what is moral and not? All of these questions and so many more would keep coming back to me again and again. Christianity doesn’t give you all the answers, far from it. However, the non-existence of God would create far far more. So I guess, at least in the short to mid-term I would feel lost, aimless and maybe even purposeless. I would need to find a point of reference from somewhere else. Things that I took for granted as being important because the Bible says they are such as family, honesty, other people, integrity, our planet, leaders and so on would have a huge question mark over them. Are these things important just because we’ve grown up being told that they are? What tells me what is important, moral, ethical or not? A government who changes it’s mind from year to year? The majority? Those who shout the loudest?

At the end of the day I believe that there will never be irrefutable proof that God doesn’t exist. For thousands of years people have been seeking for that proof it without success, who is to say that that won’t change. I also believe that proof will not be found (in this life) of the existence of God. Living as a Christian, I believe, takes nothing away from my life but in facts adds to it. I don’t sit around longing to do things that I’m not allowed to but I have had my life enriched by the Christian journey, by people I’ve met, experiences I’ve had and the comfort, peace and hope that my faith has given me. I personally believe that it is better to live with hope than live with no hope. Even, at the end of the day, if it is false hope.

I guess I must finish with the reverse of the question. What if irrefutable evidence existed that God did exist? How would that change your life? I suppose at the end of time or the end of our lives we will all get an answer. Either God exists in some form or other or He doesn’t. If the Christian is wrong and the Atheist is right then I guess the end of the story lies in a wooden box and a hole in the ground where the Christian and the Atheist lay side by side. Both having lead, more or less, the life that they wanted to. If the reverse is true though and the Christian is right and the Atheist is wrong then at death the story is much different. I don’t believe in God just so that if it just happens to be true I will go to heaven. Belief in God is not my insurance policy. I believe in God because all I have read, heard, seen, and experience point to the existence of God. I have seen the chair, tested it and have finally sat in it. It took my weight and I have continued to sit in it. I don’t believe in God to keep me from hell or from rotting in the ground, but it sure does make me think!!

Let me tell you two mini stories. The first concerns my Great Uncle Neville (Whall) who people used to call Nunkie. He died well before I was born but two stories have been passed down to me about him. Both concern his great passion in life, cycling. The first tells that he was the president some cycling organisation and used to cycle all over the UK and Europe. As part of this role he went on to jointly found the Youth Hostel Association. The second tells of him cycling in the grounds of Windsor Great Park and meeting King George VI. There is a photo somewhere of my Great Uncle explaining to the King how the gears on his bike work.

 

Now the second story concerns me at school. I was never too keen on education, as my results and school reports will attest to. One of my favourite comments found in one of my old school reports states that “Nathan has decided that this subject is superfluous to his requirements”! If something interested me I would work hard and do well, if it did not then no amount of cajoling would make me do any work for it.

 

Both of these stories are, to the best of my knowledge and memory permitting, true. However, there is a difference in their reliability. The first story has been handed down to me. Facts may have been embellished or forgotten. In fact I’ve had to check with my dad some of the information before putting it down on paper. If someone wanted to find out the accuracy of the story they would have great difficulty. I’m sure that in the archives of the Youth Hostelling Association there may be a mention of it’s founders but my Uncle might not have wanted to push his name to the forefront. He may be mentioned, he may not. I’m sure King George VI didn’t drive back to Windsor Castle and write an account of meeting my Uncle. I don’t even know if he got my Uncle’s name. It would be an account that is very hard to prove or disprove. However, with the second story things would be slightly easier. If someone wanted to prove or disprove this story their task would be fairly simple. For a start they could be shown my report cards. They could interview my teachers and fellow class mates. They could interrogate me, my parents and family. It would soon become obvious whether this story was true or not.

 

So what on earth have these two stories got to do with the reliability of the gospels. Well, hopefully I can explain. For hundreds of years it was thought that the gospels were written by people in the 2nd Century. They were accounts that had been passed down through families or churches or groups of people. They were thought to be very much second hand accounts just like the story of my Great Uncle. It was thought that when they were written down the people that had been involved in the events were long since dead. You couldn’t have gone to them to verify the facts. You couldn’t have proved or disproved what was being written. However outrageous it seemed there was no proof to be had, no-one to argue against it. However, later research suggests that the gospels were all very likely written before the year A.D.70. So it also seems likely that they were first hand accounts of what happened. Many of the first people to read these accounts would have known the people involved. They could have checked out if the stories were true. The writers wouldn’t have been able to pull the wool over the eyes of people that had been around at the time. If I had written a famous book claiming to be an “A star” student people would soon step forward to tell the world that I was not. If the Bible were written within the lifetime of the events it would soon have become obvious if they were no more than lies or exaggerations. People would not have been prepared to suffer and die for what others were calling blatant lies. The whole idea of Christianity would have been extinguished before it even got started. There are no accounts of people calling into question the reliability of the Gospel account.

 

Backing up the Bible.

 

The Gospels as historical texts don’t stand alone. Events that take place within the Gospels are mentioned by Flavius Josephus a Jewish historian who wrote around A.D. 37 – A.D. 100; Tacitus a Roman Historian who wrote around A.D. 55 – A.D. 117; Thallus who wrote around A.D. 55; Pliny the younger who was governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor and also in the Talmud.

 

If you take the view that the writers of the new testament set out to deceive, to write lies and to create this new Religion called Christianity you have to ask three questions…

1.  What was their Motive? The writers gained neither fame or fortune from their writings – their writing did not push themselves to the forefront. In fact it bought them nothing but persecution. Why would they set out to try and deceive?

 

2. Why would they write the way they did? There are two major things that don’t add up unless the only motive of writing these accounts was to portray a true and accurate picture of the actual events that took place. Firstly, why would they write it in such an embarrassing way. The Gospels are written in a way that portrays the disciples as people who always got things wrong. Why would they write about Peter denying Christ; why would they include that the disciples we often afraid and got things wrong; that so many deserted him on the cross, that they misunderstood; said the wrong things. Secondly, why would they include stuff that was so difficult to explain or even seeming at odds with their beliefs. For example why would they make up that Jesus got baptised? At first sight this would seem to show that Jesus was not perfect as a perfect man would have no need to be baptised. These sort of things would clearly cast doubt on what they were trying to get across and would have been left out had they been trying to deceive.

 

3. Would they really have carried the lie through until death? It might have been fun for a while to try and deceive people. They used their great minds to create something spectacular. But, let’s face it would they really have gotten so wrapped up in their lies and deceit that they would all be willing to die for some fabrication? If it were just one of them you could imagine that he was overtaken by his web of lies and could, perhaps, not tell reality from the lie, but all of the writers, all of the disciples, all of the martyrs? It just doesn’t make sense.


All of this doesn’t add up to prove that the Bible is true but I do hope that along with other blogs in the series “What If the Bible is Valid” it will go to show that the Bible has a lot more validity than many people would have to believe. It is not just a book that can be discounted or that you have to belief with blind faith. If you put all the pieces together you will hopefully see that the Bible is a factual document that is worth looking into.

 

Contrary to what the media would have us believe the vast majority of people in this world are not mass murderers, sexual deviants, fraudsters, cheats, thieves and so on. Most of us are law abiding, charitable, good people who care for our families and friends and even keep an eye out for the elderly person next door! We’ve never been to prison, don’t beat our wives and don’t even speed that often. So why do we need a saviour when we’re not bad people?

 

Well let’s start by being really honest with ourselves. We may be pretty good most of the time but can we really say we never have our bad moments? Moments where our goodness takes a back seat and the little devil on our shoulder wins? We may not have murdered anyone but we have thought unkind thoughts about others. We may not have had an affair but we have mentally undressed someone that we shouldn’t have. Even when we get outside our heads we’ve done little things that we’re not proud of. We’ve said things that were hurtful, unhelpful and undeserved. We’ve done things that we hope people don’t find out about even if it’s just talking behind someone’s back. There are things in our lives that we have done that are wrong. We’re not going to get the police knocking our door down for them but they are still wrong. The Bible tells us in the book of Romans that “all have sinned”. We also read in 1 John that

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”.

Many people think of themselves a basically good but the Bible clearly tells us that we all fall short of the standard that God has for us.

 

When God created man they lived together in the Garden of Eden. We are told in Genesis that God walked in the garden with them. God and man were together, there was no separation. However, man did what God commanded him not to do and sin entered the world and into the relationship between man and God. God and man were separated by this sin. In 2 Corinthians we are reminded that

what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

God who is all good cannot be together with fallen people and therefore there became this gaping void between man and God caused by man’s wrongdoings. We cannot bridge that gap. However good we are or however hard we try we cannot reach God on our own. It doesn’t matter if we are Hitler or Mother Theresa. We can never be good enough. It’s like people trying to jump across the Grand Canyon. You could train for years and not even come close to making it. Some, of course, would jump further than others. Some would train for years and some just going for it but the end result would always be the same.

 

So there’s the bad news – None of us are good enough to reconcile ourselves back to God. However, at the other end of the scale none of us are bad enough to escape the next part!!! God doesn’t want any of us to be separated from Him. Our sin had done this but God wasn’t going to let that be the end of the story. Probably the best know Bible verse John 3: 16 states that

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

God sacrificed that which was most precious to him to bridge the gap between Him and us. No-one is beyond that love which caused God to give His son for us. No-one is good enough not to need the sacrifice that Jesus made and no-one is bad enough that their sins are not covered by that sacrifice.

 

If we believe that we are too good to need a saviour then we do not receive what God has done for us and Christ died in vain. If we believe we are too bad and are beyond saving we also do not receive what God did for us and Christ’s suffering and death was in vain. The price has already been paid to reconcile us with God the only thing we have to do is accept it or reject it. If we believe we are good and don’t need a saviour we don’t have to ask Christ to die for us because He has already done it. We just need to accept it. Why try and jump across the Grand canyon when someone has already hired a helicopter to take you over to the other side. It’s all paid for, the helicopters going anyway you just need to decide to get on board and enjoy the flight!

Imagine this…

It’s a Monday (we all know how much we love Mondays).

You wake up with a sore throat.

You go to the car to take your son to school and a tire is flat (and you have to drive several hours out of town in a couple of days for work).

After a conference call meeting for work discussing a huge project with its deadline being tomorrow and many things not being ready for the deadline, you get a phone call from school that your son is sick.

When you get him home, his temperature is very high (103.2 degrees Fahrenheit).

Between work conference call meetings, you drive him to the doctor and back and forth to the pharmacy for medicine.

Unexpected large bills come in the mail, just a few days after your PayPal account has been hacked and hundreds of dollars of money have been stolen from your bank account.

Are you getting a sense that I didn’t make any of this up?

I didn’t.

This has been my week.

So, where is God in all of this?

He is everywhere.  He is my Strength, my Hope, my Guide.  I was never promised a life of ease as a Christian, and neither are you.  Do all of these crazy, unexpected, seemingly unfair things mean that God doesn’t love us or even that He doesn’t exist.

No.  Not at all.  Throughout His Word we can see that His people struggled and we are even told we will struggle as well.  But, as my BSF Teaching Leader said when discussing our Isaiah Bible Study, “People who focus on God see everything else through Him;  those who focus on fear rarely see anything else.”

As Jesus says of His Word and all that He has told us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Sometimes life seems unfair, but remember Jesus.  Remember what He willingly did for us by being brutally beaten and murdered and left to die on a cross so that He could shed His blood once, for all, to pay the price for our sin before we had even committed it.  And for us, this forgiveness and pardon and freedom is offered as a FREE gift.

Now THAT is unfair.

But I am so thankful that God doesn’t choose to be fair, but instead chooses love.

Will you accept that today if you haven’t already?  If you are running from Him, give up the fight.  Come back to Him.

We would be glad to help you with this if you have any questions.  Just go to our Contact Us page and send us an email…or just comment on this post if you would like.

Imagine, if you will, a trip to the Grand Canyon. You arrive and spend a week exploring one of the greatest sites on the planet. You see it from the air as you arrive, you walk down into it and spend the night at the bottom. You visit the North, South and West rims. You visit the gift shops and buy your souvenirs. You see the canyon at sunrise and sunset and every time in between. Finally you head for home. When you arrive home you’re told that the Grand Canyon doesn’t exist. Imagine how you would feel. Imagine your unbelief of what you are being told. You’ve been there, experienced it and now you’re being told that all of that was untrue.

 

I guess this is a little of what I feel when I try to imagine Christianity not being true. I’ve believed it, I’ve stepped out in faith, I’ve experienced it, I’ve found it to be true. I’ve tested it and evaluated it. I have seen God at work in my life and in the lives of others. I have felt His presence and seen answers to my prayers. This is all to say that trying to imagine that Christianity is just a Myth is an extremely difficult things for me to do. I know you can discount the experiences of others but when you’ve experienced something it is hard to discount it.

 

Having said that lets have a look at the bottom line. Belief in God is a leap of faith. However, let’s not confuse that with blind faith. Belief in God is not blind faith. Belief in God is about looking at the available information that you have, evaluating it and then coming to a decision. So belief in God does take faith and therefore isn’t something you can prove. You have to trust that you have based your decisions on correct information, made wise judgements and trusted in something that not only intellectually viable but is also true! So, at the end of the day what if you based your decision on a myth?

 

Now, I know that this whole subject might just seem like a exercise in covering one’s back but what I’m wanting to convey is that a step of faith isn’t such a major thing. It’s not about diving headlong into a gaping chasm, it’s about taking small steps, carefully exploring and finding out wonderful things along the way. If at the end of the day you decide it’s not true you will have lost nothing, even if you live your whole life as a Christian only to discover it was a myth you will have lost nothing. If Christianity is not true, when you die that is it, no judgement, no hell, just nothing!! Your body, mind, spirit, soul is no more. Whatever you believed makes no difference. We will all find ourselves in the same boat.

 

But will you look back with huge regrets? Regrets of living your life for something that’s not true? If I were to get to the end of my life and discover somehow that Christianity were not true I would be gutted, but not because of a life wasted. I believe that so much of the teaching of the Bible is the best way to live. Even if you were to take away the bed-rock of the truth of the Bible, if you were to say that God didn’t exist I would argue that much of the teaching of the Bible, even being man created, gave us the best way to live. Even disregarding the Bible altogether I believe that it is…

 

  • better to love than to hate

 

  • better to pursue peace than war

 

  • better to give than receive

 

  • better to put others first than yourself

 

  • better to faithful than unfaithful or faithless

 

  • better to be sincere than insincere

 

  • better to be truthful than to lie

 

  • better to be selfless rather than be self-seeking

 

  • better to be polite rather than be rude

 

  • better to be satisfied rather than be dis-satisfied

 

  • better to be focussed rather than be aimless

 

  • better to see the good in people rather than the bad

 

  • better to be trusting rather than sceptical

 

  • better to hate injustice rather than embrace it

 

  • better to work for the good rather than evil

 

  • better to help rather than to hinder

 

  • better to build up rather than to destroy

 

  • better to see people as equal rather than superior or inferior

 

  • better to provide rather than withhold

 

  • better to respect rather than disrespect

 

  • better to persevere rather than give up

 

  • better to live in unity rather than in discord

 

  • better to forgive than to hold grudges

 

  • better to seek forgiveness rather than revenge

 

I’m sure the list could go on. Surely a life lived by these principles won’t hold too many regrets. If God does not exist a life lived as if he does exist will not be wasted or full of regrets – it will be a life lived along great principles, for others, with passion and with hope. But hey, I truly believe that you’d have an easier task convincing me that the Grand Canyon didn’t exist than convincing me that God didn’t.

 

 

So, you came back for more.  Curious to read my response to my Agnostic friend?  (See last week’s post – Part 1 of 2 – for his side.)

Here is how I responded to my dear friend:

I know you said you couldn’t help but think that it (one of my own blog posts) was specifically directed to you.  Honestly, yes, a small portion of it was written with you in mind as well as knowing that I have many friends and family who could possibly be reading it that think very much like you…

I must say, I am glad to hear that you took me up on the challenge.  That’s more what I was fishing to find out than anything.  Did you read the whole book, or did your gauntlet stop you “in the beginning”? (That was a pretty good pun, if I do say so myself!)

Seriously, though, as far as answers to all of your questions and points made…I do not and will not pretend to have them.  (As I have said before, I have had many of the same thoughts and questions myself over the years.)  Neither will I attempt to proselytize you, as I know you likewise are not doing to me.  I merely am here to share with you the Essence of who I am – Jesus in me.  Though I cannot begin to battle wits with you in the intellectual realms, nor do I want to – battle with you is the farthest thing from what I would ever want (I, of course, mean that in a very complimentary and endearing way.)…I merely can share with you why I am the person that you know and are kindred spirits with.  How you chose to respond to that is, well, not something I intend to try to force a certain direction, nor is it of my concern. I respect your very thoroughly contemplated and eloquently expressed views and honestly do not feel it is my responsibilty to change them.

  • Yes, I do whole-heartedly believe there is a God and that He loves me (and you and all of the world – John 3:16) and that He is working out His divine plan in my life (as in everyone’s) every minute of every day.  (I know all of that opens up several more cans of worms, but I am just stating who I am and what I believe.  I leave the cans of worms up to Him.)
  • My life is not defined by my death, rather by His death on the cross for me (John 3:16).
  • And because my life is defined by my acceptance of His gift of His death on the cross, my life is truly now and forever an eternal life.
  • And, because of His death, I may die a physical death (even before I have the chance to see you again, or not) but I now and forever am free from having to pay the ultimate price of spiritual death and eternal separation from God that is the price of my inherent sin-nature.
  • I at one time worked very hard to believe that there was nothing beyond this life and no meaning to my existence, because that for me was much easier (in a sense) than living with the knowledge that I would one day face my Maker and have to give an answer as to why I did not choose to accept His costly-to-Him yet free-to-me gift.
  • Honestly, though, for me, convincing myself of the nothingness of life and existence was a very tiring and difficult struggle. Something always, deep down, ate at me and would not let me ultimately and deeply believe what I was trying so hard to believe.  I had many of my own “gauntlets”, as you so cleverly and accurately call them, that would be thrown down in my face right and left.  I was just never at peace, not once, the entire time I was trying so hard to believe in a way that seemed to lend itself to the most peaceful, freeing, and consequence-less life possible.  I read things, even in the Bible, that I attempted to use to prove what I so wanted to believe, but ultimately, for me, it was all a dead end…a dead end that lead to life, that is.
  • I cannot begin to explain to you in words what it feels like to have “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7), but I can only hope that one day you may come to experience that for yourself.
  • I cannot begin to describe to you in words what it is like to know and feel “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3) who is always with me – Emmanuel.
  • I cannot begin to accurately explain to you in words what it is like to pray, not just seeking an answer – though those often do come, rather just to pray – to talk to the One who knows me better than anyone on this earth ever could (because He made me just the way I am, my faults and all, just like He intended for me to be) – to cry to Him, knowing He understands every struggle I face and that He, because He was once on this earth as a human (as is so well chronicled in the Book of John), understands so truly those human emotional as well as physical experiences that I have.
  • These are all things I cannot explain to you in words as much as I may try, because they are things you just have to experience for yourself to understand.
  • I realize you may not agree that there is any legitimacy to experiences such as these, at least in your own life, but all I can say is that they are very real and very legitimate in my life.
  • I would never want to nor try to force you to feel these things for yourself by succumbing to agreeing with me on anything or everything I have put forth.  However, because of what I know in my heart to be true, I can only hope that you, my very dear friend, can and will also one day come to experience my God for all He is and even come to a point that (one can dream, can’t she!?!) you will even call Him your God one day. Not because I want so bad to be right, nor that I want to say “I told you so” or anything at all like that, rather because I know the love and peace and freedom that comes with knowing and accepting Him and the gift He offers us all.
Again, I must remind you that, as much as it may sometimes seem otherwise, I truly am not trying to proselytize you, rather I am merely sharing my heart and the Essence of who I am with you, for all it is worth.
Because of Who He is,
Haelie

Remember the challenge I issued a few posts back?  The one in which I challenged you to read the Book/Gospel of John in the Bible.  If not, you can click HERE to go back and read it briefly.

So, have you taken the challenge?  Have you started to read John, finished reading it, or do you at least plan to read it?

My dear Agnostic friend did.

I have a close friend who is a professed Agnostic and is also one of my most faithful blog readers.  Upon reading my first few posts (on my separate blog “To Not Decide…Is To Decide“), he replied in length to some of my points.  Here in today’s post, I will share with you one specific response I received from him.  Then, in Part 2 of this, I will share with you my reply to him.

Without further adieu, here is his very thorough, intellectual, Agnostic thought process about God and things related to Him:

Upon reading your last entry I couldn’t help but think that it was specifically directed to me (for the rest of you this is based on other off-line conversations). It’s not so much that the gauntlet has been thrown by you its more that it has been there already, in front of me, for a long time now. Yes, I began reading the Bible. Yes, I began with John 1 as found on the site you mentioned. And, yes, I immediately stumbled over my gauntlet. Who would have guessed!

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

Short. Sweet. But fraught with nagging uncertainties (my gauntlet). God is used in the singular, with the presupposition that this one god was there from the beginning. If so, why did he decide to allow the ancient cultures to practice polytheism and pantheism for so many millennia? When did he decide “Ok, enough of this fun. Let’s get down to business…” If he was there from the beginning why was he so loathe to make it apparent that he was there? What ever happened to all these ‘other gods’? Weren’t they real for those who believed in them? Is the belief in many gods any more false/true then the belief in one god? (For an interesting perspective on where these gods are, I’ll challenge you to read the novel American Gods by Neil Gaiman.) Then…

What relevance, if any, does God (any god, pick a god) have today? This question, for me, goes way beyond Belief and Faith. Strip away B/F and it runs to the pure, elemental core of the matter – existence. Why do we exist at all? This is a terrifying question when taken on its own, in freefall with no ground below, for us to answer. It causes anguish. It causes dread. This Nothingness we face, out of which all else emerges and where all returns is the cause of this dread and anguish.

We truly exist. But concomitant with this is the crushing onus of inescapable uncertainty; save for one thing – our eventual annihilation, our death (and taxes if you’re a comedian). Our life is defined by our death. We wonder why there Something rather than Nothing. We are always afraid that the notion of what-is (our being-here) will slip into the what-is-not (our being-not-here).

Our being-here, the Something, is continuously being defined by Nothingness. Humans have the remarkable capacity of self-creation. This is a standard feature of human existence. We are the only beings that can define our essence. We can be what-we-are. Essence follows existence. We create the purpose of the Something.

We have the ability to become what-we-are-not-today. It’s our choice to become what-we-are-not from what-we-are. You are not the same person you where twenty years ago. You will not be the same person you are today twenty years from now. Temporality places further stress on this process of becoming. This also is quite onerous to accept – a total commitment to self-responsibility, self-determination. We were thrust into Somethingness as freewheeling entities; free to exist as being-here for ourselves. (This is does not come capriciously… there is an element of moral obligation… yet another troublesome burden to shoulder). Sometimes all this self-authenticity is just too much to comprehend, too much to bear. This now leads back to the thought began two paragraphs ago.

God (any god, pick a god) solves many of these existential problems because with him at the helm of the Universe the conflict between Something vs Nothing is suddenly ‘answered’. It comforts us that some greater power is handling all these messy details of our being-here. It’s all a matter of how our being-here, existence, is interpreted. With god in the mix, our Humanness is explained by essence preceding existence.

It is only within this latter notion that B/F can take hold. It is much easier to allow our being-here to be in someone else’s hands; divine or temporal. It allows prayer to be meaningful. For, after all, praying is a statistical coin toss with only one of two options available to it every time it’s employed. Either the prayer is answered or the prayer is not answered. If answered to your satisfaction it then strengthens the belief that there is a god. But, interestingly enough, the opposite corollary is not assumed – if the prayer is not answered the one praying does not announce that it disproves god but rather the blame is placed on the one praying. The faith was not strong enough (doubt), some past event was viewed unfavorably (moral failing), disingenuousness in the request, etc. But, worst of all, prayer can be the complete abrogation of our responsibility, the annulment of self-determination, if you allow its answer to be the final arbiter. (The answer it self, is totally meaningful/meaningless due solely to your interpretation of it. Hmmm, back to that troublesome Self again.)

For when I choose to decide or not to decide I am still responsible for the decision I make. Only within the realm of Self can I choose with any authenticity to follow whatever advice I receive from whomever I ask it of.

So, now that you have read the true and deep thoughts of an Agnostic–some of which may be your own thoughts as well–I challenge you to continue to come back here on What If…Wednesdays (and anytime in between) so that you can catch Part 2 of this Conversation between an Agnostic and a Christian.

After all, there are two sides to every story, and you have not yet heard my heartfelt, respectful reply to his side.

Come back to read it soon…