Tag Archives: atheists

Monday Poem – “Breakthrough”

Breakthrough

Looking in the mirror at a person you don’t know.
Hiding from the cellars of a mental rendezvous.
…but you know you haven’t got too long
before the dust sets in,
building on a lot of hurt
and a concrete wall of sin.

I see that you can so I’m begging you to listen,
for your heart is going callous from that malice that consumes you.
You know your not alone, you’re not the only one whose bitten
but time ticks by at an awful rate and before it gets to late,
you need a breakthrough.

Dancing in the garden with a person you just met,
talking with a selfish charm that a worldly mind has set.
But you know you haven’t got too long,
before a time will come
when you can no longer turn away
from the wicked things you’ve done.

…and I know it isn’t easy,
right decisions never are,
God knows that, and I know that, so help is never far.
I know your gonna need someone to help dispel the doubt,
so Jesus died for you and me,
and helps us sinners out

Standing at the crossroads, now’s the time to take a pick,
you’ve had enough exposure so you’d better choose it quick,
because you know you haven’t got too long
before a time will come
when you can no longer turn away
from the wicked things you’ve done.

Before your heart goes hard you need a breakthrough.

A rare thing: On our depravity, our need for a reboot and the only way

Tonight I saw a rare thing; or rather I heard a rare thing.

We were looking up at the stars in the wee hours of the morning, contemplating the universe, current affairs and the state of mankind. These are all common themes in the wee hours of the morning. Amongst my friends (and I think people in general) there is a general recognition that the universe is grand and big, and that current global events are fairly fickle. These are all “safe” topics, even when you disagree slightly. Our conversation along these lines was not unusual, but it was a rare recognition about the state of mankind that surprised me tonight.

You see the notion of the extreme extent of the sinfulness of each human is something that is oft understated in western culture… especially amongst people as proud as some of my peers. In the past years my understanding of my own depraved heart has given me a type of awe or reverence for sin. Not in an all-consuming way but in a thoughtful sense of urgency I guess. When left alone with my thoughts I appreciate the situation of sin I suppose. When I’m alone I can easily see and confess my condition, my need.

When I’m alone.

But that’s when I’m alone.

As we discussed the world news tonight under the stars we joked about a need for a reboot. A wiping out of all of mankind in some sort of robot-apocalypse, mass-suicide or even a flood. My friend passionately believes the opposite to what I believe regarding the possibility of world-wide floods, Bibles and God. They are a self-described antitheist. When they grimly joked about solutions to the state of the world they were only joking, but then they got serious. They talked about how reboot was the only answer but quickly added how it could never work.

“The problem is mankind,” they said, and they were dead right. “No matter how many times we rebooted we would always fail and stuff things up. The evil is within us, it’s what we do.” My friend used the word ‘we’, an important and rare recognition. The willingness to accept personal responsibility for evil is something I have not come across in many people. The hopelessness of sin and total corruption of the human heart is extreme. How rare it is for this condition to be acknowledged openly? It is all too often downplayed, ignored or excused. Tonight I was invited to discuss and give proper respect to it under those stars.

Even in the Church, where the sinfulness of humans is supposed to be a core doctrine we rarely see confession on the level of total, open acknowledgement. It’s seen as taboo, offensive or old-school to preach or talk about it. There is a lot of talk of relevance, love, friendship, justice and a nebulous version of salvation, but sin is not often mentioned to the extent it was tonight. This is a big problem in itself because without acknowledgement of sin, there is very little power or purpose in Christianity, even in the cross. Sin is the problem in the world and the depravity of mankind is epic and huge. The wrath of God is against us forever because of it, because of our wicked sinful condition. Christ has come to provide amends, to take the punishment of the wrath and offer a better way. Without acknowledging the wrath is there and fair, how do we escape it? It is impossible.

It can be an offensive place to go, to enter into this dialogue about sin. Oh, we say we are an open-minded culture but try bringing that one up. In Australia you can go where you never once would and talk openly about religion, politics and sex. You can say what you like about anyone and anything. You can do anything, and be anyone. But woe to the one to suggest that there is something totally wrong with the world and that it comes from within. We are dismissed as narrow-minded. It is not politically correct, even if it is correct, and is usually seen as residue from a more primitive time when religion ruled the land.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13,14)
If the Church (by Church I mean Christian people not an organisation) declines to offer to the world the concept of sin and total depravity, the importance of Christs sacrifice will be lost on them. People will refuse Christ, not knowing his relevance to them. They cannot call His death and resurrection good news without first knowing the bad news.

Sin is reality and we underestimate its power, here & now and in eternity.

My friend was correct about the need for a reboot, and they were correct about the problem being the hearts of man. It is impossible to reboot things with sin so prevalent. To reboot the world we need Christ, Gods answer to our sin. Though my friend see’s the problem clearly, and in a rare moment at two in the morning is prepared to recognise its fullness, they unfortunately stop there. The rare confession and acknowledgement of sin is merely the beginning though, and although in acknowledging total-depravity my friend is probably closer to life and God than a lot of religious people, they were not ready to reboot. They are off to a good start though, for it is only when we admit our need can we begin the reboot.

God.
Depravity abounds… in this world around me and within me.
Forgive me.
Give me faith to believe and to cling to Christ.
That is what is needed.
He is the only way.

The resurection of Christ is the most probable explanation of the facts

When I first believed in God I studied and examined various religions trying to work out which one was the real truth. Christianity wasn’t on the top of my list but one I tried to avoid believing. I think I had a hunch or a built in awareness in my heart that it was truth, but I had to cross off or debunk a few others before I looked into it intellectually because to be honest I was hoping for a religious belief that did not require any commit or life change from me.

One of the main reasons I finally believed with my mind what I knew in my heart was that I became convinced by the evidence that Christ physically rose from the dead. I did not believe as I now do that the Bible was divinely inspired, but rater I just believed it was a religious text and historical document. What I found though was that even if you treat the New Testament as a historical document or even a work of fiction you must still come to a conclusion that resurrection is the most probable explanation of the facts. I became convinced that God miraculously raised Christ from the dead and I saw it as a vindication and sign from God that the Christian message and after that I also believed the Bible was truth. I have received a few questions on my formspring about why I am a Christian, and I have wanted to write about evidence for resurrection for a while. As it is the Easter season and resurection is a topic that comes up a lot during Easter I thought I would take the chance to write a few thoughts about it now.

It is not necessary to believe that God inspired the gospel accounts to conclude that Christ rose from the dead, but if you honestly appraise the historical evidence you might just conclude as I did that Christ and the Bible are indeed from God. There are certain facts about Christ’s resurrection that are commonly accepted by most scholars (both believers and skeptics) of the New Testament. The four facts that are accepted are that Christ died and was buried, that a group of women found an empty tomb, that a large number of people claimed to experience appearances of Jesus & that the early disciples experienced a revolutionary change and passionately believed and preached their message.

Christians believe these facts support their faith, skeptics believe they can be explained without accepting Christianity as truth. These facts must be examined honestly if someone wishes to reject or criticize Christianity as false. If someone is unwilling to examine the evidence then they forfeit any right their right to call their rejection of Christianity an intellectual decision. It is irrational to deny Christ existed (as some now do), because the historical evidence so overwhelmingly proves that he did exist. The best an honest skeptic can do is try to explain away the facts about Christ’s resurrection with alternative theories or explanations. The most common theories to explain the above four facts are as follows- the disciples stole the body, Christ’s enemies stole the body, the disciples hallucinated or Jesus has indeed risen. After examining the theories I concluded at 17 years old that Christ had resurrected from the dead and this conclusion has been reinforced time and time again since as I have heard others articulate the arguments for and against it, and as I have experienced the reality of Christ. I originally heard a debunking of alternative theories in a book by Answers in Genesis (I forget which one) and have recently appreciated the way Dr. William Lane Craig has presented similar ideas. I would like to offer a brief examination of the main arguments against the resurrection conclusion, borrowing heavily from having listened to Dr. Craig a lot and from that original reading of the AiG book.

Theory 1: The disciples stole the body and hid it
This theory is common amongst skeptics despite the lack of evidence to support it. This theory would point to a deliberate lie and conspiracy on the part of the disciples, involving them contradicting their beliefs against lying and stealing, sneaking past armed guards and concocting elaborate stories to try and convince people that Jesus had physically resurrected. It is a pretty big stretch to try and imagine that timid cowardly young disciples who were already disheartened by the death of their leader could sneak past a twenty-four hour watch of Roman guards trained to kill. In the unlikely event that it was possible for them to do this, why would they do it? They believed that knowingly deceiving was a sin in Gods eyes and that he punished sin. They also all underwent extreme difficulties, hardships, ridicule, torture and death for their message.

If the disciples hid the body and knew Christianity was not true, how can the change in demeanor and passionate focus on preaching their message be explained in light of the torture it would bring them? It is irrational to think that the disciples and Church founders would be willing to experience pain and death for something they knew was untrue. Sure people die for false beliefs all the time but those people think they are dying for the truth. Nobody dies for something they know is not true. If the disciples hid the body then Christianity was a fraud and they knew it. They would not be willing to undergo the difficult trials that they did for the gospel if they did not believe it was true.

Theory 2: Christianity’s enemies stole the body and hid it
This theory is often common amongst skeptics when they realize that it is unlikely that Christ’s disciples stole his body. It suggests that Roman soldiers or Pharisees stole Christ’s body to fool or trick the disciples or to further discourage them when their leader died. The problem that this theory has is that the missing body empowered the early Church.

Christ’s resurrection and ascension into Heaven has always been the lynchpin Christianity. The early Church boomed and thrived because of the belief Christ had risen. Christian preachers even taught that Christianity was foolish if Christ did not rise (1 Cor 15:12-19). If Christianity’s enemies had the body of Christ, all they needed to do was produce it and Christianity would have died at its inception. It is clear they did not have the body and were openly frustrated by it being missing. None of the enemies of the early Church believed this theory, it was never suggested. The missing body supported the testimony of the Church, and helped its spread. If Christianity’s enemies had the body they would have produced it.

Theory 3: Christ’s disciples hallucinated
This theory is suggested because the evidence is clear to even a casual passive skeptic that the disciples honestly believed they had witnessed and interacted with Christ after his death. It is unlikely that anyone is serious when they suggest that the appearances of Christ were hallucinated and it is a theory that is easily debunked. Even a basic understanding of psychology tells us that hallucinations are experienced differently by individuals and are not experienced the same collectively. Hallucinations are in an individuals mind and occur to people who hope for or expect them or to people who are open minded. The disciples had scattered and all but folded, they had gone back to their previous professions. They were not prone to belief, but to disbelief, as demonstrated by Thomas wanting to put his finger in Christ’s wounds and Paul encountering Christ despite not being a Christian. Also the hallucination theory does not explain why the body was missing. If the disciples hallucinated it would have been easily demonstrated by the enemies of the Church by producing the body.

Theory 4: Jesus rose from the dead
It seems that the most probable conclusion of evidence is that God raised Jesus Christ from the grave. The resurrection is the best and most plausible explanation. If a miracle occurred it suggests the existence of God. God vindicated Christ and resurrected him showing His approval of Christ and His teachings. This is the conclusion I came to when I was 17 and it is the belief I have held since.

My belief in Christ’s resurrection is not just an intellectual belief, but a heart conviction that God has given me. It is not enough to just believe with your mind, but you need to have a faith in your heart that can only come from God. I hope that as you consider the evidences for Christ’s resurrection you experience this gift from God and He gives you a repentant heart to ask for His forgiveness. While the evidence is overwhelming and gives intellectual permission for belief, it isn’t enough to merely believe with your head. The Easter celebration recognizes the importance of Christ dying on the cross for the forgiveness of sin and rising again. The evidence supports this message. You don’t need to leave your brain behind to believe in Christ’s resurrection, but you do need to leave your sin behind to experience it.

Formspring Question – “Why do you believe in God?”

Formspring Question – “Why do you believe in God?” (asked by an anonymous person on Formspring)

I have been asked why I believe in God a lot in the last 12 years. I have probably believed in God my whole life but it was 12 years ago that I realised that the existence of God required more than passive believe and that it was something that demanded a response from me. That’s when I eventually became a Christian, so I guess people ask it more now because the influence it has on my life is more obvious than it was before. I always answer differently depending on the person asking the question, but I’m not sure if I have ever really written down my answer to an anonymous reader before. The answer is one that has built up over years, as the default belief I once had has been reinforced firstly through critical thinking and research and then eventually through experience. I think in this entry I’ll only talk about the initial default belief as I think this is the thing that the questioner is asking about. There are many, many other reasons for belief in God. I’ll talk about how my beliefs were later reinforced in a later entry.

When I refer to having an initial default belief it isn’t because of the family I was born into was a religious one (because they weren’t), rather it seemed (and still does seem) to be a logical explanation for the world around us. Every child seems to know that something that is created and designed has to have a creator/designer. The big bang is a simple notion and it will only get you so far. One thing I wondered as a child when thinking about it was if the big bang occurred what caused it to occur. I didn’t realise it until much later but what I had adopted instinctively was a simple, childish version of “the Kalam Cosmological Argument”. The Kalam Cosmological Argument is a philosophical argument that basically says: anything that began to exist had something cause it, the universe began to exist, and therefore the universe had something that caused it to exist. In other words, as Julie Andrews sang “nothing came from nothing, nothing ever could”. So from the earliest time in my life belief in God made rational, reasoned sense.

Apart from my initial belief though, reason and science and math and logic have all pointed to the existence of God. To me looking back on my belief in God, the intricacy and order of nature is probably another thing that caused me to have an assumption there was a creator. I am still talking about an extremely young age, younger than I can even remember. I am to this day yet to find a better explanation for the intricacy of the universe than God. If we flew to Mars and found a library, and in that library were thousands of books and machines, we would logically conclude that there had been intelligent minds on Mars before us and that they had built the physical structure of the library, written the books and designed the machines. What I saw around me as a child was structure, order and design that is far more complex than the greatest buildings, computers and machines that are around today. This is another thing that caused me to believe as a child that an intelligent mind created this world.

As I mentioned before the belief in God was passive and assumed. It wasn’t until much later that I began to research the belief. Over the years I would read a lot, and learn a lot, and actually tried to debunk the notion of God. When I later saw what an important question the existence of God was I didn’t want there to be a God, but the more I tried to not believe in the idea of a creator the more evidence I found to support it. I eventually became convinced not only that God exists but that His existence demanded a response. It was after that I began looking at various religions, eventually stopping at the bottom of list with my least desired religion: Christianity. I found Christianity to be true. Once I became a Christian my evidence became more experiential, as I experienced God in ways I could not imagine, and these experiences supported Gods existence even more.

Each day of my life I have added to the evidence I have found for God existence with objective, reasonable, rational evidence as well as wonderful subjective personal experience.

To me it seems like the evidence for God is extremely abundant, and it seems to be the default belief for people in light of the evidence. For that reason the question isn’t really why someone would believe in God but why the heck wouldn’t they believe in God? There is no explanation that is more logical.

This question was originally asked and answered on Formspring. To ask me more questions on Formspring click here.

I am keen for more comments and discussion if you are willing. How do you respond to this question. Do you believe in God? Why? If you don’t believe in God, why not? Feel free to respond anyway you like, no comments will be censored but just discussed.