Category Archives: Reasons for Having Faith

The Uniqueness of Jesus

faithfile007jesusbwReasons for Having Faith
Part 7 of 7
The Uniqueness of Jesus

What do we think about Jesus? His life is described in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Details of His life, death, and resurrection can be found in many other places in the New Testament of the Bible as well, including one of Paul’s letters to the Christians at Corinth, which we call 1 Corinthians. Do these documents give an accurate and truthful portrayal of what Jesus did and who He was? The ultimate question is, did He rise from the dead?

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-7) Paul was listing the people who saw Jesus alive again after He had been executed on a cross and buried.

Scholars agree that Paul wrote his letter around 55 AD. That’s no more, and probably less, than 25 years after the reported event of Jesus’ resurrection. Many of us can think back to events 25 years ago. Those events aren’t that far in the past. Such was the case with Paul’s writing about Jesus’ resurrection.

The first three Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were written in the 60s or 70s AD, at the latest. That was within 40 years of the actual event. Again, many of us have vivid memories of events that occurred 40 years ago. All of the New Testament was written in the first century, within 60 years of the events in Jesus’ life, including His resurrection.

There’s no reason to question the historical accuracy of the New Testament documents that give witness to Jesus’ resurrection as being fact and not fiction.

Who is this Jesus who many are convinced was raised from the dead? Most people believe Jesus was a great teacher, so what did He teach about Himself?

Jesus did not teach that He was just another prophet; He taught that He was the fulfillment of the prophets’ messages. He taught that He existed before He was born, even before the ancient patriarch Abraham was born! He taught that He was one with God. He taught that He had all authority, over everything. He taught that He is the only way to get to God.

The great Christian thinker C. S. Lewis put it well in this classic statement: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.” (Mere Christianity) The compelling facts about Jesus’ uniqueness confront us with a profoundly important decision: what will you and I do with Jesus?

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

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The Problem of Pain

faithfile006painbwReasons for Having Faith
Part 6 of 7
The Problem of Pain

If God exists, why doesn’t He get rid of all pain and suffering? He certainly could perform miracle after miracle, nipping each eruption of pain, suffering, and evil in the bud. Or He could do a major miracle and get rid of it all in one fell swoop.

If God is not all-loving or is not all-powerful, it stands to reason there’s pain and suffering; He either doesn’t care or can’t do anything about it if He does care. But if God is all-loving and all-powerful, why is this such a hurting world? That’s the traditional way of expressing the problem of pain and suffering.

Sometimes when people face tragedy or suffering they wonder if they’re being punished. The reality is that pain and suffering is the common experience of all people of all time, both good and bad. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33) If you study the great characters of the Bible you’ll find that they all faced much grief and suffering, many times the result of doing the right thing and being obedient to God.

It has been estimated that something like 90% of the pain and suffering in this world is due to people hurting people. Think of war and the uncounted numbers who flee from war, displaced, hungry, and homeless. Think of the selfishness that results in economic injustices. Think of the robberies, murders, and rapes. Think of the hurt we cause each other in our relationships, particularly those nearest to us and those we love the most. God gets blamed for a lot that’s not His fault!

If God controlled all human behavior we would be puppets, not people. The freedom to do loving acts toward one another and to please God only have meaning if we have the option to not do loving acts and to do evil. Evil, pain, and suffering are the price of having free choice.

Yes, suffering is also caused by earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods. Such natural disasters are even called acts of God, but God can’t be blamed for all the harm they cause. The Bible indicates that this is a fallen world, that because of the free choice of people to turn away from their Creator creation itself has been profoundly affected in negative ways.

Pain and suffering are an unavoidable part of the human condition, but we have a God-given choice as to whether it will make us bitter or better. It can drive us from God or to God. We often can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

The Question of Miracles

faithfile005miraculousthumbReasons for Having Faith
Part 5 of 7
The Question of Miracles

What about miracles? Are they for real? Can our belief in a cause and effect universe allow for miracles?

Laws of nature are generalizations about how things have been observed to uniformly happen. When one believes in God, it seems only natural to state that God’s regular patterns of acting in nature are what we call natural laws. A miracle is an exception to this uniformity of the way nature functions.

Insisting that God is bound by the laws of cause and effect would leave no room for Him to act in a personally responsive way. He would be relegated to being an observer as the wheels and gears of cause and effect that He created churn away. If God created natural laws then it stands to reason that He is not bound by them. A miracle is not an event without a cause; the cause is God.

If God is willing to override His laws of nature and do the miraculous, why doesn’t He do it more often and be even more obvious about it? To put it another way, if God really wanted everyone to believe in Him and have a relationship with Him, why doesn’t He show Himself more clearly?

Perhaps some people could be convinced if God made Himself more obvious, but He doesn’t want to compel belief in Him and a relationship with Him; He wants it to be voluntary. If God were to impose Himself on us, there would be little or no free choice. That God seems hidden is God’s way of giving us the space we need to make the choice to believe in Him and come to Him.

Are miracles possible? There may not be enough evidence to compel belief, but there’s enough evidence to make belief compelling!

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

The Foundation of Morality

faithfile004moralitythumbReasons for Having Faith
Part 4 of 7
The Foundation of Morality

That’s wrong!” “That’s unfair!” “You can’t do that!” “That’s unjust!” We often make pronouncements about what’s right or wrong. When we make such statements we aren’t just giving our opinion or expressing our personal preferences. We’re appealing to some higher standard. By what authority do we declare something to be right or wrong?

How can one hold to any kind of absolute standard of right or wrong unless there’s someone who gives that standard? If there are rules by which we should live, there must be a rule maker.

There can be only one logical source for Moral Law, an ultimate reference point for what is right and what is wrong, and that is God. If we’re going to hold to an ultimate ethic, belief in a holy, perfect, and good God is our only logical option. C. S. Lewis wrote, “The Being behind the universe is intensely interested in right conduct.” (Mere Christianity, p. 37)

Those who believe in God believe that God does not measure up to some standard of goodness, because then we’d be right back to where that standard of goodness came from. We’d be lacking any ultimate basis for good. No, God does not measure up to some ultimate standard of goodness; He is the ultimate standard of goodness!

Granted, most people who don’t believe in God are moral people, but their moral feet are planted firmly on thin air! They can give no good reason for being good!

Sometimes it’s argued that a right or wrong has been established to help guarantee the survival of human kind, but who is to say this is an ultimate value? If there is no God and no afterlife, why should we yield to society’s rules to be good, sometimes at a personal cost and sacrifice, when a billion years from now the human race will no longer exist and there will be no memory or record of our ever existing? Why would we want to curtail our own desires when we have only a few years to exist? Who can tell us it’s wrong to grab all the gusto we can while we’re here?

If we humans are the result of a natural evolutionary process without the benefit of a creator God, then there’s no reason for the existence of our deep and profound sense of morality. Where does it come from? The most logical explanation for the source of our sense of goodness is that we have been created by a creator, and our Creator is good!

The psalmist David declared that the generations “celebrate your abundant goodness…” (Psalm 145:7)

Where Did Consciousness Come From?

faithfile003consciousnessthumbReasons for Having Faith
Part 3 of 7
Where Did Consciousness Come From?

Being conscious is an amazing mystery. Why are we conscious rather than unconscious beings? Why are we aware? Why are we aware that we are aware? Where did our consciousness come from?

Approximately 85 billion neurons make up our brains. Each neuron is connected to 10,000 others. These neurons fire a signal on the synapses between them. The mind’s process for thinking is a matter of these neurons firing or not firing; you could call them biological on and off switches of the brain. How can consciousness arise from these simple firings of neurons?

The function of a computer is similar to how our brains work in that all computer computations are a huge number of 0s and 1s, much like the firing or not firing of the brain’s neurons. These 0s and 1s, in long strings and combinations, allow a computer to process data, but unlike our brains a computer is not conscious.

Dr. Rosalind Picard, a Christian who is the founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group at MIT, is heading the effort to give computers the ability to sense and respond to emotional clues. Will they ever have emotions? Dr. Picard stated, “We are working on methods that give machines what I say are mechanisms of emotion… We can make the computer smile and look like it’s happy, act like it’s happy, and retrieve happier words. We can make a computer write poetry that’s more iambic, but it doesn’t have the same internal experience, or self, that we have.”

In other words, we can program computers to simulate emotions by writing code so they respond in ways that seem emotional, but they aren’t really feeling anything. When IBM’s Watson computer won the game of Jeopardy over humans it couldn’t be happy about the win. Watson wasn’t truly “thinking,” just crunching vast amounts of 0s and 1s to arrive at the right answer.

No computer code, no matter how long or complex or how fast it runs, is going to become conscious; code can’t be conscious. We can program computers to mimic consciousness, but not to experience it. If the 0s and 1s of computer code are never going to achieve consciousness, there’s no reason to believe that switching on and off the firing of the neurons of any brain will generate consciousness.

There’s really no adequate explanation for the existence of consciousness other than believing that the Creator, who is supremely conscious, created us this way! As His conscious creation we are not only conscious of self and of the world around us, we were created to be conscious of our Creator, and to live accordingly.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God…” (Jeremiah 24:7)

The Source of Life

faithfile002lifethumbReasons for Having Faith
Part 2 of 7
The Source of Life

The earth is full of life of incredible diversity. The best estimate is that there may be over 8 million species on earth! One of the most fundamental questions is where did all of this life come from?

Natural evolutionists believe that in a primordial environment there was the right mix of gases such as hydrogen, methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, etc. that interacted with some type of energy such as the sun or lightning that converted these basic elements into a variety of amino acids. Those evolved into proteins; the proteins eventually evolved into simple cells, complete with DNA to replicate themselves.

Dr. Stephen Meyer, a geophysicist who earned a doctorate at Cambridge, wrote, “Consider what you’d need for a protein molecule to form by chance. First, you need the right bonds between the amino acids. Second, amino acids come in right-handed and left-handed versions, and you’ve got to get only left-handed ones. Third, the amino acids must link up in a specified sequence, like letters in a sentence. Run the odds of these things falling into place on their own and you find that the probabilities of forming a rather short functional protein at random would be one chance in a hundred thousand trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion. That’s a ten with 125 zeroes after it! And that would only be one protein molecule — a minimally complex cell would need between three hundred and five hundred protein molecules.”

Even the simplest of cells is amazingly complex and has hundreds of thousands of bits of information stored in its DNA. DNA is an astonishingly complex storage mechanism. Information requires someone to have organized it. The storage and sharing of information in a meaningful way so that it makes sense requires intelligence and intentional effort. DNA seems to shout that it has been designed – by someone.

Science can only deal with what’s observable. Many people believe that what is observable was made by a creator who is not observable, at least not by scientific methods. The belief is that God, who is outside space and time and is neither energy nor matter, created what exists — energy, matter, and life — within a space and time continuum. According to Dr. Francis Collins, a geneticist who is the head of the Human Genome Project, 40 percent of scientists believe in God and believe that He created life!

Admittedly, a decision about whether God exists and created life, including us, has profound ramifications. If it all just happened by chance then life has no ultimate meaning and purpose, but if God created life, and us, then our lives have meaning and a purpose, and this reality should make a difference as to how we live.

“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation’… And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures’… And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures’… Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…’” (Genesis 1:11, 20, 24, 26)

The Origin of Everything

faithfile001originuniversethumbThis week we begin a 7 part series.
Reasons Enough for Belief
Part 1 of 7|
The Origin of Everything

I look around and ask myself, why is all of this here? Why is there something instead of nothing? Where did it all come from?

Scientists have observed our expanding universe, and by rewinding the action backward they have concluded that our universe was formed 13.8 billion years ago. The theory is that the universe exploded into being from an infinitesimally small point, often called the Big Bang.

Even if we assume that the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe is right, what caused the Big Bang? Many cosmologists hold the view that this happened naturally, without benefit of any creator. Other cosmologists are open to the idea of a creator.

It seems to defy logic to believe that everything came out of nothing without something causing it to happen. Our universe operates on the principle of cause and effect. The fact that the universe exists means that there must be a cause.

The idea that energy and matter have always existed is intellectually unsatisfying. You can’t keep putting off answering the question, “But where did energy and matter come from?” by pushing it farther and farther into the past. Eventually we want to know, “But what’s the ultimate cause?”

Many hold to the conviction, including a significant number of scientists, that there’s someone beyond space and time, who is neither energy nor matter, who has made all that is.

It really makes good sense to believe that the origin of the universe is a result of the creative activity of God. It has been argued, and I believe it’s valid, that it takes more faith to believe that somehow everything exists without anyone making it than to believe that there is a Maker!

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)