The Real Deal

“If God did not exist, He would have to be invented.”[1]

Despite being a fierce critic of established religion, French philosopher Voltaire flippantly highlights the problem of trying to dismiss the divine – humanity cannot make sense of life or flourish if left alone.  There is simply too much evidence, from the universe around us to the core of our beings, which cries out for God’s existence. 

Firstly, consider the Almighty gap at the centre: how on earth did all this happen?  Science proposes various mechanisms, notably evolution and the Big Bang, but no-one can say what happened before time began.  In fact, even the best theories are only educated speculation, based on extrapolating from limited data – such as patchy fossil records without any proven “link” between species.  Who was actually there?

Looking at the vastness of a star-studded sky, the beauty of a red-tinged sunset and the majesty of towering mountain ranges, we surely cannot dismiss the cause as blind chance.  Moreover, the intricate workings of our human bodies, such as blood clotting, or the complexities of our tumultuous minds, still unmatched by any “Artificial Intelligence”, makes a mockery of probability calculations. Mathematical models all conclude that such artistry would take trillions, not billions, of years to emerge from the “singularity”.[2]  The fact we can discover laws, like gravity or relativity, governing how organisms interact strongly suggests there is order, reason and design behind Creation.[3]

There is also a fundamental flaw in assumptions that measure the planet or universe’s age because what is assumed to be painstakingly slow, gradual evolutionary cycles could actually have occurred much more rapidly as a result of many more catastrophic events, such as the Great Flood.  One of many items of evidence cited to back-up this Biblical account (and the numerous other oral traditions from around the world) is the fact all the earth’s mountains have been under water at some time or times in the past, as indicated by sedimentary rocks and marine fossils near their summits.  Even the majority of volcanic mountains – with their pillow lavas – seem largely to have been formed when under water. 

One of the most compelling observations is the capacity of human beings to reach towering heights of self-sacrificing love or endurance.  If we are all irredeemably selfish – programmed to fight for survival – why would living individuals donate a kidney to complete strangers?  What motivates a Prisoner of War who volunteers to be savagely punished for a shovel he did not even steal, so only he would die?[4]  Whilst humans, given Free Will, are responsible for so much evil and suffering in our world, somehow they are also inspired to do amazing good.  Even our somewhat vague, yet widespread, belief in happy endings – our incorrigible optimism – is a pale shadow of the deep-seated hope offered by faith in One who is in overall control and actively working to redeem the worst of situations.  In fact, without such faith in human potential, underpinned by divine absolutes, our moral concepts of restorative justice and participatory democracy would collapse in a postmodern mishmash of conflicting claims where each individual seeks to justify themselves and excuse their selfishness.  Without God, the ultimate result is anarchy or tyranny as human dignity, morality and rationality become inexplicable, unjustifiable and meaningless.[5]  As Albert Einstein concluded, “Every attempt to reduce ethics to scientific formula must fail”.[6]

Moving to examine ourselves, we discover an innate instinct of worship and adoration.  Whether this involves fanatically following a football team or marvelling at the latest I-phone, both Karl Marx and the Old Testament prophets critiqued the fetishizing or idolising of what humans make with their hands and do with their bodies.[7]  Since Moses’ day, the Israelite’s gold calf has metamorphed into equally fickle, capricious gods like the Dow Jones Index, Ibrox Stadium, Facebook and the Statue of Liberty.  Whilst all these man-made constructs prove to have feet of clay, they demonstrate our fundamental needs, whether for excitement or freedom, financial security or friendship.  The yearning is not at fault, but the objects latched onto and slavishly adhered to with such blind trust.

So, all around and inside us we see desire for God, but how can one faith claim to be the only Way worth following?  What makes Jesus Christ stand out as superior to, and greater than, any other religious or historical figures?

The place to start finding answers is in the four gospels – the Bible’s account of his life by eyewitnesses prepared to die for these beliefs.  Here we meet someone who stands out as astonishingly compassionate, rigorously truthful and absolutely convinced of His mission.  Instead of the clichéd, long-haired image, this man breaks all the taboos of his day – eating with those ‘sorted’ people considered scum and challenging religion, which forgot to actually care for real human beings in their obsession with making money or legalistic ritual.  Jesus touched lepers, considered outcasts by his society, and drove out crooks from the temple, always courageously doing what was right, not just plumping for the easy option.  He clearly loved people – pushing through fatigue, thirst and hunger to willingly teach crowds who returned daily how to live, weep at the tomb of a dead friend and invest so much painstaking time in mentoring His closest followers.

Furthermore, Christ was undeniably powerful.  Even Jewish critics, like the historian Josephus, called this man an extraordinary miracle-worker, making the blind see, the lame dance and restoring the mentally deranged to their right mind.  No other religion claims that their founder rose from the grave with a new resurrection body.  Many, including sceptical judges and journalists, have set out to disprove this central tenet of Christianity and discovered evidence that is so overwhelming they have actually switched allegiance!  If the body was moved by Jewish authorities, why did they not produce the rotten corpse to squash the rumours and convictions of his transformed followers?[8]

At the crucifixion, Jesus’ followers were terrified of being caught and hid in locked rooms.  Following the resurrection, they boldly proclaimed the Name by which everyone could be saved, heedless of serious consequences like flogging and being fed to lions.  Although impossible to verify scientifically, millions from numerous different backgrounds have discovered for themselves mysterious power, especially when praying according to Jesus’ will.  Testimonies abound of faith in Christ changing lives, from a Kung Fu champion imprisoned after he went off the rails, to an aspiring surfer who, aged 13, lost her arm to a 15-foot tiger shark.[9]  Instead of repression or projection, both found liberation and new purpose in Jesus.

In relation to other religions, the Christian faith, rightly understood, also affirms all that is good, whilst critiquing excesses and unnecessary, external regulations, such as strict food or dress laws.  For example, the Hindu concept of “karma” – whereby god gives each person exactly what they deserve – is arguably much better expressed in the Biblical warning and encouragement that “we reap what we sow” in this life and eternity.  Jesus will save, help and guide everyone who seeks Him at whatever point in life, especially those in greatest need.  We can trust His perfect, merciful justice.  However, we have every incentive and inspiration to live as productively and fruitfully as possible day-by-day, becoming channels of the grace He lavishes on us.  He can give true peace in our hearts, even as we strive to share His love with those around us.  

 Of course, the Name of Jesus is tragically misused.  Blood-soaked Crusades, gold-encrusted militant theocracies and money-grabbing charlatans all manipulate for their own advantage what should be given away freely.  Sadly, some today turn their back on churches where kindness seems rationed and prejudices against people obscure the message that we all fall short, make mistakes and need healing in different ways.  However, as a genuine community where Christ is taught, followed and worshipped, believers are richly blessed by together remembering and practicing what is right.

 Clearly, all who claim to follow Christ need to learn from our King.  He shows us the most compelling way of life, expressed in suffering service and remarkable grace.  One particularly striking incident is when He washed all his disciples’ smelly feet – the lowest of jobs absolutely no-one else wanted.  So many who have truly changed the world – Wilberforce opposing slavery or King fighting for black civil rights – have been touched by His love for us and followed His example.[10]

 In Scotland today, what we need, not to create, but rediscover, is forgiveness that breaks cycles of recrimination and revenge; contentment with what we have and purpose in truly serving one another, especially in reaching out to society’s most scarred individuals.

 So, God is real and revealed, most wonderfully, in Christ Jesus.  He is waiting and longing for all those lost to turn to him for counsel, comfort and commission.  Will you dig deeper, shrug off prejudices, ask for His help and begin the adventure of faith, believing that true love overcomes whatever barriers divide us?

 

 

[1] Cited at http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Voltaire, accessed 12/06/2012

[2] www.godevidence.com/2010/03/ockhams-razor-cuts-through-to-the-truth/ – accessed 12/06/2012

[3] http://www.bethinking.org/science-christianity/introductory/the-christian-roots-of-science.htm, accessed 11/06/2012

[4] www.pauladams.org/Stories/ErnestGordon.htm; www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18363995

[5] John Blanchard, Can we be good without God (2007) pp. 15-16

[6] The Ultimate Quotable Einstein by Albert Einstein, Alice Calaprice and Freeman Dyson (2010) p. 327

[7] David Hawkes, Ideology: the New Critical Idiom (2003, 2nd edition) esp. pp. 18-19

[8] Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (1998)

[9] www.tonyanthony.co.uk/about, accessed 13/06/2012; http://bethanyhamilton.com/about/ accessed 09/05/2012

[10] http://creation.com/anti-slavery-activist-william-wilberforce-christian-hero, accessed 11/06/2012

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One thought on “The Real Deal

  1. Thank you for the concise survey of existential and metaphysical realities which confirm theism and Christianity, and disconfirm competing theories.

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