FOR THE SKEPTIC: THINGS TO CONSIDER, GIVEN WITH RESPECT
In Nomad’s Fire, I relate several occurrences which I describe as supernatural. They have no rational explanation. In effect, I call them miraculous.
That gets us into prickly territory. Do miracles exist? Some people will say that x supernatural thing happened but not y. I think it’s a package deal; if a miracle can happen, any miracle can happen. And, if God exists, he by definition can do whatever he darn well pleases. If he doesn’t have that power, we should use another word for him instead of God.
Years ago, one of my professors reminded the class that humans are composed of intellect, emotion, and will. We moderns may think we are purely intellect-focused, but enough studies show that our choices, at the end, are made for emotional reasons. Even men, who pride themselves on their decisive brains, will arrive at final decisions based on emotion. They may study the specs of the Corvette, but it’s the soul-stirring image which makes the decision. That’s why car dealers ask you early in the process what color you want.
I am convinced that God created the universe with just enough evidence to satisfy the spiritual person but not quite enough to convince the skeptic. A relationship with God does not come by knowledge; it comes by faith.
There’s plenty of evidence to back up the Bible, and as the years go by, researchers discover more-and-more proof to back it up. But, no one comes based on knowledge alone. If it’s an evidence debate you want, you can find plenty of books to read. I’ve got friends who make that their specialty. There is enough substance to give faith in God “credence.” It’s not unreasonable to assume a creative Mind, considering the evidence. It’s not crazy to assume an intentional creation, by an otherworldly Creator, given the staggering breadth of organization, structure, diversity, mathematics, and beauty in the material world.
Scientists continue to peel back the layers, only to discover more mysteries and delights. They continue to develop and modify their theories. We never quite find the words to describe the infinite majesty of “creation.” “Creation”—may we call it that? To trust in a Creative Being is not absurd, unless you know with absolute certainty virtually every aspect of how the universe developed, and you know for sure that it came about without personal intention.
But, I’m not interested in the evidence of the mind right now. Let’s look deep inside and consider the testimony of the heart. At some point, the will has to kick in. You have to choose for God. I’ve heard it put this way: God is a gentleman, and will not force himself upon you. He wants you to come by choice. God does not create robots. For, what glory does he get when people flock to him because they were programmed to? Life is a wild walk of faith.
Ironically, Scripture says that our eyes open to spiritual things when—and only when—we respond to God by choice. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” This verse might seem like a copout, but if something has happened to light a match of insight in your soul, then it’s not an unreasonable thing to assert.
I’ve seen it happen over-and-over: Friends of mine were raging pagans, went through difficulties, and finally chose for God. At that moment their “eyes were opened,” and they saw with eyeballs of faith. They immediately understood. On the spot, they gained a spiritual mindset. This fact makes it challenging for the person of faith when he or she talks with a skeptic. What skeptic will respect comments such as, “Well, when you decide you will understand.” But, it’s true.
I know that many Christians have been obnoxious and hypocritical. I’m offended by that myself. But, if there’s a Judgment Seat to come, you’ll be standing there by yourself. Those other people will have their own judgment. You had better be prepared for yours. I guess you’ll have to decide if you have a personal solution for your destiny that is equal to the enormity of eternity. I suppose you could always deny the existence of eternity.
No matter which approach you take, if you’re a skeptic, and you choose not to believe, you’re rolling the dice that your point of view is correct. That’s the bottom line, and your intellectual integrity demands that you admit it. You have to acknowledge that no one has absolute surety regarding his agnostic positions; isn’t that the case by definition? Even the great Hawking had those who poked holes in his theories, and yet he could not conquer death. He resolved nothing with finality. Is the solution to the universe only found in our human brains? If so, we have a long way to go.
What life is all about, from the Christ perspective, is eternal fellowship with our Creator. He loved us enough to give us his Son. He wouldn’t have done that if he determined to nuke us eternally. He did it because it was the only way to pay the price his holiness demanded. He lovingly provided a sacrifice for me and for you.
Our relationship with God is an intensely personal thing. It’s not a matter of signing off on a doctrinal checklist, although doctrine is essential. At the heart of it, the relationship is a person (God) offering himself to you, and you yielding to that in the sense of receiving him. Where the doctrine comes in is that you acknowledge that Jesus Christ loved you enough to atone for you, sacrificing himself to pay in full the judicial penalty for your sins, and that his sacrifice fully satisfied God’s holy demands.
The reason that it is a “free gift” is that it was a price beyond your ability to pay. The only way you can have it is if someone else paid the price.
All of us have moral imperfections. Most people will admit that they are not “completely holy.” As a wise man said, “The things I want to do I don’t do, and the things I don’t want to do I do.” The guy who said that was the famous Apostle Paul of the New Testament, who wrote the 1 Corinthians passage above.
Our impurity is why we are estranged from God. A perfectly holy being cannot “fellowship” with sin. The one who created and loved us is blocked by his very nature from living with us eternally. Unless that is, somehow the impurity issue is overcome.
That’s what the death of Jesus was all about. His death was not just a noble act; it was a sacrifice which “atoned” for our sin problem.
It’s okay to question God. I suspect that he prefers people who will be strong and speak what’s on their mind. The Bible characters spoke freely to God. Knock on his door loudly. At least, in doing so, you’re “in the game.”
Scripture portrays a world estranged from God. In my experience, we are all estranged. We all mess up. We’re all looking for home.
I grant that none of us has all of the answers.
I do believe there is a sufficient legacy of Scripture to verify its importance. You can’t ignore it.
The consistent theme is of a God who searches for his prodigal, wandering child, to bring him or her back to his hearth for eternity.
The Bible says that “heaven” is a specific, tangible place and that God is preparing a home for us. Who could take comfort in the idea of resting on a cloud forever, playing a harp? Not me! If 2,000 years ago Jesus said he was going to prepare it, then it must be quite the place. He’s certainly had time to work on it! It’s the home we long for because what we have on earth is always transient. As insurance agents will say, “One out of every one person will die.” During our wisp of a life, no place on earth holds us forever. We move. We are restless creatures.
Scripture presents heaven as a massive banquet. Or, at least, it will start with one. You’ll probably agree that the things we value are things such as warm meals with loved ones. We don’t get rid of all of that in eternity—it’s all there, but on a massive scale.
At that banquet, he’s set a place for you. There’s a card with your name on it at your seat. But you have to accept his way for you to get there. In other words, you must yield to him. Accept the relationship he offers, and rely on his work (the sacrifice of Christ) to carry you across the line.
If you’re a convinced atheist and want to stay that way, that’s your choice. I have no right or power to change it. But, if you are searching and want to explore (as opposed to argue), head over to the Contact box and drop me a line. I do not claim to have every answer, but I do appreciate a person who will think things through.