Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him. Proverbs 26:12
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13
“What are you going to believe, science or your lying eyes?”
That fairly summarizes how I felt about evolution and naturalist explanations on the origins of the universe and life, before I became a Christian at the age of 29. I knew I didn’t want there to be a God of morality and judgment, but I also knew what I saw all around me: incredible complexity and order from the subatomic all the way through to the galactic level. Our bodies testify to the same – incredible and massively interdependent complexities working together to form what I take for granted as simply “myself.” It seemed equally arrogant, naïve and foolish to think that humanity was at the pinnacle of life, that what we could measure with our little instruments captured all of reality, that our space-time continuum was “it.”
I also wanted nothing to do with Jesus Christ. I did not know and thus certainly did not understand the Gospel, but I knew that I did not want to be answerable for how I chose to live. I was wed to my pagan ways. If I had to pick a religion, Zen Buddhism suited me just fine only because of its literal irrationality.
In my life, God has a way of quietly catching me off guard and then turning my life upside down. Ultimately for my better. One such instance was a conversation with my then-fiancé while sitting in my pickup truck in a parking lot. We were talking about what might happen after you die. I explained that aside from “rotting,” I did not anticipate much else. When tears welled up in her eyes, I realized I just stepped in it. Sensitivity has never been my forte. Lesley’s mother had recently passed away. I apologized for my insensitivity towards her mother. Lesley respond, “I’m not crying for her, I’m crying for you.”
As a 220 pound Airborne Ranger, I wasn’t accustomed to being pitied or cried for. I had no response. Further, I knew Lesley was smart, very smart, particularly when it came to math and science. As a chemical engineer, she did multivariable calculus for fun. I was unsettled that this woman whom I loved so much was so convinced there was a God and an afterlife.
In short, years of study and introspection followed. I quickly confirmed that “science” confirmed what I had casually observed: our reality is incredibly ordered and complex and the mathematical probability of any component of it happening by “chance” or by random, unguided processes was impossible. The thought of all of these components coming together by chance to form this reality seems insane. I quickly concluded that a belief that our reality can be explained by only natural processes was grossly irrational. Something or someone had a hand in making all this happen.
That begged another question, if there is something that caused everything around us and went to the trouble of creating and giving us consciousness and intelligence, wouldn’t it be likely there was a purpose and wouldn’t it also be likely this magnificent creative force would communicate the purpose? Of course this opened the door to religion.
When I started to research world religions a few things quickly stood out about Christianity. First, it’s message was quite different from the rest, to put it mildly. Second, few things if any have been researched and debated more than the historicity of the Bible. Third, skeptics automatically exclude the historical narratives of the Bible. Repeatedly, I read skeptics conducting historical analysis of Biblical books using other historical sources but simply refusing to treat the books of the Bible as historical sources themselves. In short, everything was fair game as evidence, except those things which Jews and Christians have treated as the central evidences of their faith and foundational historical texts. Hardly a fair analysis, but it was a method I had seen before. By now, I was a law student and I recognized the methods of “advocacy” posed as neutral analysis, i.e. ignore the contrary evidence.
My friend Ken Ham, the CEO of Answers in Genesis where I serve as a board member, recently made a similar observation, “The Bible is evidence—it is evidence that enables us to correctly connect the past to the present and understand true history.” In his post, Ken points out the paradox of the Intelligent Design movement – they are evidentialists who do excellent work using observational science for purposes of demonstrating that the world as observed around us could not be the byproduct of chance. However, for historical analysis, such as the origin of life, the Intelligent Design movement refuses to entertain the evidentiary value of the Bible itself (or any other historical material that includes supernatural effects).
For me, the historical evidences of Jesus Christ led to my intellectual conversion to Christianity. (Years later, Christ opened my eyes and saved me, which is when I became a Christian, the difference between intellectual Christianity and true Christianity is a topic for another day.) CS Lewis logically observed that we have three options regarding Jesus Christ: liar, lunatic or God. I could not escape from that analysis. The evidences all pointed one way: God.
The Bible presents numerous compelling evidences of the supernatural or divine nature of Christ. Intrinsically, Christ’s life and message are both not of this world and yet perfectly describe the human condition.
The Bible teaches that man is in a perpetual state of rebellion against God, that our very nature rebels against the nature of God, and this by our own choosing – our original sin. Then, it gets interesting. The Bible repeatedly speaks of God ridiculing the wisdom of man. Consistent with that message, at every level Christ confounds worldly wisdom. Christianity teaches that the omnipotent, infinite, omnipresent and eternal God of all that is seen and unseen, took the form of human flesh in His creation. Instead of the heraldry due the arrival of such an eternal King, he arrived as the apparent out-of-wedlock son of a peasant woman in a tribal kingdom somewhere in the west-Asian backwaters of the Roman Empire. To underscore the point, God was born amongst the squalor of livestock and his first visitors were sheep herders who were roughly the social equivalent of today’s garbage collectors. To further emphasize that Christ confounds the ways of the world, he was born to a virgin. This promised deliverer grew up in obscurity. This author of justice befriended prostitutes and tax collectors. This conqueror did not wield a sword but saved his kingdom by being beaten, tortured, and slowly and painfully executed by hated pagans. In the midst of his agony, Jesus asked for their forgiveness. Three days later, he rose again, and after a short period of teaching, ascended into the heavens. He then sent his Spirit to dwell with those who put their faith in His sacrifice.
It is also apparent that the Christian life itself also mocks worldly wisdom. As cogently explained by A.W. Tozer,
A real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme love for one whom he has never seen, talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of Another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, is the strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passeth knowledge.
A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous.
The Christian message is striking. It was either insanity or not of this world. We rebelled and in response, God sent himself, in the form of His son, to pay the price for our sins if we will only return in faith to Him.
The extrinsic evidence compels that Christ was neither insane nor a liar. At the forefront stands the testimony of his disciples. They followed him, literally, for years. They shared with him the darkest of nights, storms, meals, hunger, fatigue, continual teaching, persecution and travels. Three things struck me about their accounts and the written summaries from their colleagues.
First, the Apostles all tell the same history from different perspectives. The skeptics leaped at what they claimed were inconsistencies, but what struck me was that the purported inconsistencies can be reconciled and explained (and they have been, repeatedly over the centuries). To me, this was strong evidence against fabrication (or a lie). Had the Apostles desired to tell a lie to the world, you would expect them to carefully craft identical versions of the same story. Richness and diversity of perspective is a telltale sign that the authors truthfully reported what they witnessed and experienced.
Second, the apostle paid for their testimony with their lives, with the exception of the apostle John who was exiled to a barren rock of an island for his testimony. And their testimony was that we are sinners in rebellion against God, and that God offers us the gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ if we will just repent and accept the gift. It is simply incredible to believe that these men would knowingly sacrifice their lives to promote such a selfless message – if that message was false. It makes no sense.
Third, from an attorney’s perspective, the historical counter-testimony of the “opposing sides” is not just underwhelming, it also contains an incredible admission by one of the leading adversaries of the Apostles’ times. To this day, Jews are largely hostile to the truth claims of Jesus Christ, that he is God. Rome crucified Jesus. The Jews and Romans controlled the land of the day where the Apostles testified. The Romans and Jews killed the Apostles for their testimony. All they needed to do to disprove the deity claims of these Apostles was to produce the body of Christ or provide testimonies from witnesses that any of the very many miracles did not occur when and where the Apostles stated or that their prophecies were not fulfilled in Jesus. Instead, the historical record is silent on any rebuttal. No such rebuttal evidence was apparently generated by the Jews or the Romans.
To the contrary, one of the leading Jewish authorities of the time, in fact one of
the first Jewish persecutors of Christians, converted to Christianity after being confronted by the risen Christ, by his own account. If anyone then knew of the evidences against Christ, it would have been Paul. Paul was a pharisee, descended from pharisees, and a Roman citizen. He became a Christian. There were no counter testimonies. There was no body of a dead Christ. From an evidentiary perspective, Paul’s conversion and the silence of the Jewish/Roman rebuttal at that time speak volumes as to the truth of the Apostles’ testimonies.
If you take the Apostles’ testimony as true, you are confronted with not just an incredible message, but also numerous miracles and the satisfaction of prophecies fulfilled in the birth and life of Christ. Some count hundreds of prophecies fulfilled in Christ. Their testimonies routinely tell of Christ doing the supernatural – healing, walking on water, resurrecting the dead, changing water into wine, etc. The Pharisees were the skeptics of that age and were not materialists, so they were not concerned about material miracles. They simply attributed Christ’s material miracles to demons. The Pharisees were however astounded (and outraged) by Christ’s forgiving of sins, which is spiritually supernatural. They knew that only God could forgive sins and thus thought Christ to be a blasphemer.
The historical texts are reliable. The Apostles’ testimony presents a remarkable even confounding message that both accurately describe our condition while at the same time turns human wisdom upside down. The Apostles testified with their blood that they told the truth. The silence of the Jewish and Roman records remain, but the testimony of a leading and learned Pharisee prosecutor now comprises a majority of the books of the New Testament. The miracles and prophecies further confirm the deity of Christ.
If Christ is God, then the prophets who testified of his coming were messengers from God, as they said they were. Christ therefore, in my mind, reverse authenticates that the Old Testament is also the word of God. The Bible then is God’s message to humanity, is inspired and should be taken most seriously, from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21. As the word of God, the Bible is fundamental evidence.
This was my intellectual journey to Christ and to trusting the Bible as my authority for living and for interpreting reality. God speaks to all of us in different ways. We are all witnesses of general revelation; creation speaks to each of us. Beyond that, Christ reveals himself to his people in multitudes of ways such as through general biblical apologetics, creationist apologetics, the witness of believers, and loving through the upbringing of loving and godly parents. In the end, God uses all things for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.