Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Why I Believe: An Examination of my Faith

You may have at some point encountered someone who asks you about your belief in the Bible and your faith in Jesus.  Sometimes that’s a hard question to answer and you find that it’s difficult to articulate.  Perhaps after making your initial commitment to Christ, you kind of just took your faith for granted and assumed everyone else had similar convictions.  And so, you might stumble in your words only and ultimately give the most unfortunate answer: “I don’t know… I just do!”

As Christians, we all want to be able to defend our faith and aspire to bring others to Christ.  While we may feel comfortable in our faith and unwavering in our acceptance of what the Bible teaches without a second thought, we can’t allow ourselves to make the mistake of failing to look at things from an unbeliever’s perspective.

Therefore, I think it is crucial that we first revisit and examine our own faith.  We must be ready to answer the tough questions curious unbelievers might ask.

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…

Admittedly, my faith has been directly influenced by my upbringing.  My parents, grandparents, and fellow Christians in the churches I grew up in have had a major impact in shaping my beliefs.

But through the years my faith has increased and strengthened through my own studies.  I was encouraged by my preachers to not follow their (or anyone else’s) teachings blindly, but to seek out the answers for myself.  Indeed, the Bible itself encourages active questioning and searching for truth.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 tells us to “test all things…” and Proverbs 18:15 states “the heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge”.

For this lesson I would like to share with you some of the reasons I believe in God and the Gospel.  I will describe secular evidences that inform my faith as well Scriptural confirmations.  It is my hope that perhaps this lesson will likewise inspire you to examine your own faith through the pages of the Bible and beyond.

The Order of the Earth and the Universe

My faith has always been inspired by the natural world.  When I was young, my parents instilled in me a great sense of respect and awe for nature.  We would go hiking and camping to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors on a regular basis.

Many years later, I still have that same awe for the nature now coupled with an appreciation for Science.  For me, Science and faith have been inexorably linked; I have never viewed the two realms as mutually exclusive because it is difficult for me to look at the natural world and not see a guiding hand behind it all.

To me, all of Creation is evidence enough for the existence of God.

Psalm 19:1-3  The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.  Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.  There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.

Furthermore, the Bible tells me that God is a being of order, not chaos.

1 Corinthians 14:33  For God is not the author of confusion but of peace…

Looking at the universe around us, it is easy to observe that there is natural order governing all things.  The precision of the movement of planets, the patterns of weather and regularity of the seasons, the perpetuation of life through the balance of complex ecosystems, these are just a few of the evidences that I believe point to the existence of a Creator.

The Improbable Existence of Life in the Universe

Through my studies I found that scientists have discovered that the odds of life as we know it existing at all in our universe are very slim and all but improbable.  The way I understand it, a wide variety of factors have to be precisely tuned to allow even the possibility of life.  Yet, incredibly, our planet seems to be engineered for living things.

One example of such fine-tuning is Earth’s placement within our Solar System.  Scientist call our planet’s location a “Habitable zone” or – my preferred term – a “Goldilocks zone” (because everything is “juuust right”).  The idea is basically that we happen to be positioned just the right distance from the Sun.  A change in Earth’s location of just 2% in either direction would result in worldwide extinction.  If we were closer it would be far too hot, the oceans would evaporate, and life could not exist.  If we were farther away it would be far too cold, the oceans would freeze, and life could not exist.  (Additionally, the Sun itself happens to be just the right size; were any larger or smaller, we would either roast or freeze.)

Earth’s proximity to the Sun is just one of an assortment of factors that must occur for life to exist on our planet.  Did you know some scientists speculate that without Jupiter Earth would constantly be at risk of being bombarded by meteors?  Apparently, the gas giant acts as a sort of sling shot that captures these potentially devastating space rocks in its strong gravitational pull and flings them away from the inner Solar System, protecting us from disaster and allowing life on Earth to continue.

Another interesting fact is that the composition of gases within our atmosphere is also just right.  The atmosphere contains 21% of life-giving oxygen, but if it had just 50% more the air would be much more combustible and a single flash of lightning could ignite an entire forest into fire instantaneously.  On the other hand, if we had just 10% less oxygen, we wouldn’t be able to even start a fire.

This is but a sampling of the type of fine-tuning required for life on Earth that scientists have discovered.  Astrophysicist High Ross states that the probability of a life-sustaining planet such as Earth with all of the correct parameters is about 1 in 1030.

We on Earth appear to have hit what scientists refer to as “the Cosmic Jackpot”.

It is difficult for me to believe that these conditions occurred by random happenstance.  It is facts and statistics such as these reinforce my belief in a benevolent Creator.

Romans 1:20  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

The Reliability of Scripture

Some of the most compelling evidence for the Bible being the Word of God is the fact that it proves its credibility time and time again.  The Bible has continued to hold up to scrutiny throughout the centuries and even into the skeptical and cynical modern era we find ourselves living in today.
With the next several points, I would like to focus on just a few of the Bible’s credentials attesting its divine inspiration.

Multiple Authors, Same Story

I often find myself frustrated with continuity errors found in movies, television series, and other story-telling media.  The writers just can’t seem to keep characters and events straight and inevitably they make mistakes that contradict within the narrative and end up confusing the audience.
Keeping the fallibility of human writers in mind, it is amazing to realize that the Bible’s 66 books were written by 40 different authors over a period of 1500 years, in 3 different languages and on 3 different continents!  In spite of this, the authors (many of whom did not know each other personally) managed to tell a cohesive story without contradicting each other.

I cannot conceive of any possible explanation for this aside from acknowledging that the Bible is true and was inspired by God Himself!

2 Timothy 3:16-17  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Archaeological Evidence

Additionally, secular history supports the claims made by the Bible through the studies and accounts of scholars and historians.  Archaeologists regularly make discoveries that further authenticate the Bible and have been known to turn to the Old and New Testaments to aid in finding of ancient geographical locations long forgotten by other sources.  At the very least, the Bible stands as a significant historical document supported time and again by outside sources.

Fulfilled Prophecy

It is also intriguing to me that prophecies within the Bible have a tendency of coming true.
For example, the Old Testament contains over 350 prophecies about Jesus.  Various details and circumstances surrounding Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection are foretold in books written hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of years beforehand.  Someone did the math and figured that probability of one man fulfilling just 8 of those prophecies is about 1 in 1028.

Those are extremely narrow odds bordering on the impossible… and yet we read in the New Testament that each of these prophecies was fulfilled by Jesus Christ!

It is highly unlikely that the authors of the Bible were merely making guesses about future events and just happened to get them right.  Therefore, I believe that these men were inspired by God who revealed future events to them.

2 Peter 1:21  …For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:12-13  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

The Fallen Nature of Man

Another point on the credibility of the Bible I find interesting is the fact that the human characters are regularly found to be fallible.  Within the pages of the Bible we can read accounts of murder, rape, and other sinful acts.  At first glance, this does not seem to make any sense.  After all, if anyone were to set out to write any kind of text meant to be the basis for a religion, wouldn’t they want the characters in their story to be perfectly flawless?  Instead, the Bible exposes the fallen nature of man.

While unbelievers would highlight passages of biblical characters involved in sin as evidence against the Bible’s moral message, I think that this instead enhances the credibility of Scripture.  The Bible tells the Truth in its entirety, blemishes and all.  This is a consistent message throughout the Bible and it’s a fact confirmed by our day-to-day reality; we all recognize that we are imperfect, susceptible to temptation, and capable of horrendous deeds.

Romans 3:23 …For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

The Compelling Nature of the Bible

Finally, I believe because the Bible reveals a message that could only be divine in essence.

Jesus’ Divine Wisdom

While many in the world believe that Jesus was merely a prophet and not the Son of God, few can dispute the revolutionary nature of His teachings. To me, the very idea of “treating your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:38-39) is completely the opposite of mankind’s prevalent attitude of self-interest.

Jesus’ teachings of self-control, servitude to others, and forgiveness transcend and exceed man’s own concepts of right and wrong.  While man’s teachings put an emphasis on right and wrong actions, Jesus put a greater emphasis on the heart, recognizing that the attitude of the heart results in action.  Jesus’ standards for morality our much higher than man’s!

For example, look at Jesus’ teaching on adultery.  While man might concede that the action of adultery is wrong, Jesus condemns both the action and the lustful thought that precede the action!

Matthew 5:27-28 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

The Greatest Story Ever Told

Finally, I believe that Bible tells a powerful story unlike any other.

Beginning with the fall of mankind and the entrance of sin into the world, Scripture convinces us of humanity’s need for a Savior and offers us a means of redemption.

Thus, we read that Jesus, the very Son of God, left His home in Heaven to live as a man.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

The Bible tells us that we have a Savior who knows our struggle.  He can understand what it’s like to be tempted because He faced the same temptations we all do.  The major difference being that Jesus managed to do what no other human could possibly do as He rose above the temptations and led a perfect life while on Earth.

Philippians 2:5-8  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

As we previously discussed, mankind does not deserve to be saved.  We constantly rebel against God’s will as we are enticed by our own desires.

And yet, in spite of our willful shortcomings, we read of a Savior who loves us beyond measure.

Through this love He allowed himself to be beaten, tortured, and ultimately put to death on the cross.  He offered Himself as a sacrifice to save us from our sin.  He offered Himself as a sacrifice to save me from my sin.

Romans 5:8 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I acknowledge that I am imperfect and in need of a Savior.  I find myself guilty of sin, time and time again.  The Bible has convinced me that Jesus is my only hope.

1 Peter 1:6-9  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.


There you have it.  I have shared just a few of the reasons for my faith in God and the Gospel.  Who knows?  Maybe one day I will compile a "part 2".

 I hope that this lesson has been beneficial to you and serves as a means of encourage to you to likewise examine your faith and your reasoning for believing.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Ultimately, we may never be able to convince unbelievers of the intangible.  This is not a defeatist attitude, but a reality we must face and live with.

However, regardless, we need to at least have an answer ready in case the occasion ever arises and we are called upon to defend our faith.