My sister wrote to me late one night about a difficult discussion she had with someone at college. This person was a former Christian, and he was arguing that there is no way to know that the Bible is truly inspired by God. As this is a topic I’ve struggled with myself, I felt that my response was worth sharing.
I think that’s one of the most challenging (and scariest) aspects of our faith – apologetics. Having faith in God is a personal and intimate thing that we can’t always explain well in words, and exposing that to someone who is critical of it can be very crushing. Also, I don’t think the types of churches we were raised in do a good job of preparing us for that sort of defense.
Different people of faith believe for different reasons, and the reason you believe may not hold any water for the person you’re talking to. For example, some people are more logical, and have faith because there is good evidence that the events of the Bible took place, and that Christianity makes sense as a whole (in terms of the purpose for our lives, among other things). Others believe because of events they’ve experienced or emotions they’ve felt (often times the Spirit working through them).
It sounds like the person you talked to is more interested in the logical side of things. He’s right, there’s no way to know for sure that the Bible is God’s word. But like I said before, there is lots of corroborating evidence to back up the events in the Bible, ESPECIALLY those surrounding Jesus. Also, another point that I find particularly convincing is the fact that pretty much all of Jesus’ early followers were persecuted and executed. None of these guys would have committed their lives to spreading the Gospel if they weren’t totally convicted. And we do know historically that these guys died for the Gospel. Now sure, people die all the time in the name of Islam or other religions, but those people don’t claim to have met God directly; they’re simply convinced by others that they will receive rewards in heaven. But the apostles saw Jesus do amazing things in front of them, THEN died to tell other people about it.
Now personally, all this evidence can be convincing, while still not being life-changing. There has to be a reason for me to care about any God at all, before I ponder what God or religion I believe to be right. Romans 2:14-15 says that all people, even nonbelievers, have the law [a way of living right with God] imprinted on their hearts. This is felt in the conscience, in compassion and love and respect. I really believe that people are made to seek understanding of a higher power and a higher meaning. If we were all just evolutionary biological entities, then how do emotions, love (the feeling, not the response to it), the search for meaning in life – how do these further enable us to perform our biological functions – to survive and reproduce and evolve? The screenwriter who was giving a talk yesterday said that Richard Dawkins, a famous “atheistic evangelist,” once said, “The Universe doesn’t owe you any meaning.” This makes a lot of sense from an atheistic point of view, but if that’s the case, then why does EVERY human being seek to find a meaning? Wouldn’t we have evolved without that supposedly fruitless impulse to search for the answer to life, the universe, and everything?
When Googling that topic I found this page: http://www.asktheatheists.com/questions/636-if-there-isnt-a-god-why-do-i-feel-as-though-life-has-meaning This page makes me very sad. Most of the atheists’ responses end up saying, “I’d rather make my own meaning than have a god tell me what to do.” The things they mention that can be their own meaning, educating people, understand things, inventing things, these are all such small aspects of the greater meaning God gives us – to exist in a meaningful relationship with Him and other people and creation. None of the stuff they mention matters in and of itself. Who cares if you invent something in a godless world? You might get a little respect for a while, then you die, and it doesn’t matter anymore. The reason that this page makes me so sad is that these atheists don’t have convincing reasons for not believing in God – they just have a resistance to obeying a demanding god that doesn’t exist in the first place!
So, I hope this is a little helpful and encouraging. Don’t feel bad if you weren’t able to think of good points during your discussion – I find it very hard to defend myself in a discussion setting without much time to think. If you want to read more of what I think, you could check out my “Why I Believe” page on my blog. It probably duplicates some of the points I discussed here.