She was a young adult dying from cancer. As her pastor, I was by her bedside, reading Scripture, praying with her, and pointing her toward heaven. Suddenly she turned to me with tears in her eyes and asked, “How do we know that this is all real?”
The question caught me off guard. She had always seemed strong in her Christian faith. But this was a moment of weakness…a battle with fear…a realization that death was staring at her in the face and she needed to know that her belief in Jesus Christ was more than just wishful thinking.
Faith is one thing when life is easy and death seems far away. It is another thing when you are on your death bed facing your own mortality and the prospect of eternity.
I am reminded of a quote by Diogenes Allen, Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University:
To look only for what is helpful in Christianity, largely because of this uneasiness at affirming its doctrines, has become a common practice both inside and outside the church. But there is a price to be paid. If we are concerned with finding help only, and not with truth, we are unlikely to find substantial help. For when we actually come face-to-face with temptation, danger, and death, we encounter reality—and at that point the question of who or what will guide and sustain us is no longer a side-issue. This is probably why “spirituality” in general, in spite of its initial appeal, fails us. When the chips are down, vagueness about what we believe is not an asset. (Spiritual Theology, 159)
This was one of those moments “when the chips were down.”
Thankfully three thoughts came to my mind in that moment. These three thoughts reassured her…and have reassured me in my own times of doubt.
1. The wonders of creation tell me that God exists.
I honestly believe that it takes more faith to believe in materialistic evolution than it does to believe in theistic creation.
The heavens and the earth scream out “intelligent design.”
The complexity and order of the universe (so precise that you can set your watch on it), the fine tuning of the earth for our existence (known as the anthropic principle), and the reality that everything we see around us is more energy than matter, held together by an amazing power, all point to the existence of a Master Creator and Designer.
If that’s not enough to convince you, then just consider the wonder of DNA.
Within every cell of your body there is a six-foot strand of tightly wound DNA.
You have approximately 30 trillion cells in your body. Thus, you literally have 35 billion miles of DNA in your body. That’s enough to stretch to the sun and back 385 times.
And within this DNA is the exact code that details every aspect of your unique design. There is enough information in your DNA to fill a thousand encyclopedias. Even what was once considered “junk DNA” is now seen to contain 15 trillion bytes of raw data that would take a computer 300 years to fully process.
Scientists are just now realizing the unfathomable storage capacity of DNA. Consider this quote from a recent issue of Scientific American.
DNA can archive a staggering amount of information in an almost inconceivably small volume. Consider this: humanity will generate an estimated 33 zettabytes of data by 2025—that’s 3.3 followed by 22 zeroes. DNA storage can squeeze all that information into a ping-pong ball, with room to spare. The 74 million million bytes of information in the Library of Congress could be crammed into a DNA archive the size of a poppy seed—6,000 times over.
Every time we encounter information, we know that it comes from intelligence. To believe otherwise is to believe that a random explosion at a printing press could produce an edition of the New York Times. You can believe that if you want, but I choose to see the wonders of creation and stand in awe of a Creator whose intelligence and power far exceed anything we can imagine.
2. The wonders of the Bible tell me that God has spoken.
Okay so maybe some kind of intelligent God exists. How do we know who He is?
I believe that God not only exists but that He has spoken. And the Bible is His Word to us.
You can ignore the Bible, critique it, attack it, and even mock it but there is no question that it is the most remarkable, most read, most translated, most influential book in the history of humanity.
It has the best manuscript evidence of any ancient writing and it’s not even close. If you are going to doubt the reliability of Scripture then you are going to have to doubt the reliability of every writing in ancient history.
It has been repeatedly verified through archaeology. Nelson Glueck, one of the foremost archaeologists in history, once said:
It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And by the same token, proper evaluation of biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries. (Rivers in the Desert, 31)
It has also been amazing in its prophecies with over five hundred prophecies fulfilled in exact detail by Jesus Christ. The book of Daniel, written in the 6th century BC, is also amazing in its accuracy, predicting the four world empires from Babylon to Rome. Critics have long argued that Daniel must have been written after the fact in the 1st or 2nd century BC. But this theory has been strongly refuted.
One of my favorite biblical scholars is Robert Dick Wilson (1856-1930) who served as the Professor of Semitic Languages and Old Testament Criticism at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is one of the most unique scholars that you will ever encounter. At the age of 25, he plotted out the rest of his life unto the age of 70, dividing it into three periods of fifteen years. For the first fifteen years, he learned every Semitic language that could be learned, eventually mastering 45 different languages and dialects. For the next fifteen years, he read every ancient document related to the Bible that could be read. And then for the last fifteen years, he wrote all that he had found related to the historicity of the Bible. Amazingly, he accomplished this feat and here was his conclusion:
I have come to the conviction that no man knows enough to attack the veracity of the Old Testament. Every time when anyone has been able to get together enough documentary ‘proofs’ to undertake an investigation, the biblical facts in the original text have victoriously met the test. (The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible)
Written by over forty different authors in three different languages over a span of 1500 years, the Bible stands as a complete unified document telling the story of humanity from creation to the end of time. What is lost in Genesis is regained in Revelation. And Jesus Christ stands at the center of everything.
3. The wonders of Jesus Christ tell me that God loves me.
There is no one in history like Jesus Christ.
Even Time Magazine in their millennial edition admitted as much:
It would require much exotic calculation, however, to deny that the single most powerful figure—not merely in these two millenniums but in all history—has been Jesus of Nazareth. It’s an astonishing conclusion in light of the fact that Jesus was a man who lived a short life in a rural backwater of the Roman Empire [and] who died in agony as a convicted criminal. (Time Magazine, December 6, 1999)
The Man who never wrote a book, never led an army, never held political power, never traveled more than 100 miles from where He was born, never did anything that the world attributes to greatness…literally changed the world.
He died as a criminal on a Roman cross, the worst punishment reserved for the lowest of individuals.
But something happened three days later.
His disciples claimed He physically rose from the dead and that they saw Him, talked with Him, touched Him, ate with Him.
They all died for their faith, facing their own violent deaths under the iron fist of the Roman Empire.
Yet their testimony stood firm.
They turned the world upside down with one message of good news.
Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
And He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures.
And all who believe in Him will have eternal life.
This was their simple creed.
And it is my creed today.
Passed down through the generations, changing innumerable lives along the way.
If Jesus Christ did not physically rise from the dead, then Christianity is a bunch of hopeful hooey.
The apostle Paul said it clearly.
And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. …And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17-19)
Christianity is falsifiable. Disprove the resurrection and the whole structure falls. Christianity is not interested in giving wishful thinking or religious opinion. It is either true or it is false. It is either reality or it is fantasy. It cannot be both.
Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. (C. S. Lewis)
Either Jesus Christ is God in the flesh or He is a fraud.
Either He is Lord or He is a liar.
The resurrection is the dividing line.
Because He lives, death has lost its sting.
Because He lives, I will live.
Because He lives, my friend is not dead.
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
God exists. He has spoken. And He loves us.
Jesus Christ is the proof.
You can follow whoever you want. You can believe whatever you want.
But I have cast my lot with Jesus Christ.
He is the way.
He is the truth.
And He is the life.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:1-4)