I’m doing this series in order for readers to understand where I’ve come from and why I’m so passionate about Christ. This is the concluding part of a long series about God as He’s worked in my life (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). If you’re just joining, I’d recommend starting at the beginning. But now, part 4 will finally tie into the overarching theme of this site: Christian apologetics.
We ended last time in New Zealand. But I had to leave.
When I got back, I read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. It was fun. I loved it for the enjoyment of it, not just the learning. Now that I’ve read more, I’d say it’s great for starting out. I also read some online stuff; none of the stuff that I have in the Resources section on this site. I realize now that what I read were awful sites with awful arguments. But I didn’t know that. I was just starting out. Their “evidence” became the reason for the hope that I have.
Of course, I wanted to see the other side of the story, too. So I started reading atheist stuff. It’s great to read both sides of the coin. We should. We should always weigh point and counter-point. But I find that when someone doesn’t grow up with a focus in apologetics and they start reading atheist suff, they do what I did; not actually read both sides of the coin.
Really, I hadn’t even read any on the Christian side of the coin. Growing up in church isn’t a philosophical education. I think it should be, but it generally isn’t. So we have these young adults, like me, reading atheist stuff for the first time thinking that they’ve heard the Christian side; when in fact they haven’t.
So I didn’t read something and then look at the counter articles, or the counter-counter articles. I just read the atheist side. I already knew the Christian side, right?
Needless to say, I started to have some serious doubts. I thought faith was against rationality. I thought we really couldn’t believe in miracles. And I thought God probably didn’t exist.
It was a stressful time. If God was just a metaphysical hypothesis then it wouldn’t be that difficult to change someone’s mind, either towards God or away. But God’s not that, which is why we should always show grace to both seekers and strugglers. As I said and showed in basically all three previous posts in this series, God is more. God should be our everything. And to have God be your everything — to have him transform your life so radically (see the earlier Parts of this series for a snapshot) — yet think He’s probably imaginary, is a rather difficult experience. Are you willing to give up Jesus? It’s closer to a breakup than the changing of a Vulcan mind.
Moreover, I had many very good friends, and of course my parents, who were Christians. Losing my faith would be heartbreaking for them. Even if I was completely able to detach myself from God, this decision would cause them immense pain, even if they turned out to be factually wrong. This meant, I think, that I was/am morally obligated to not take this decision lightly.
So it was a challenge, but I’m not interested in a useful lie, or a feel good illusion, or a convenient social network. I care about truth. If it’s not true, screw it. I’m not going to do anything because it “works for me”. Truth trumps. I’d rather know that everything’s objectively meaningless, if that were the truth, then play pretend that some Being cared; or to just “make my own meaning”, as if that’s not just playing pretend either.
So I sought and prayed. “God, reveal yourself to me.”
I kept reading atheist stuff. And I prayed.
Why wouldn’t God reveal Himself? Why wouldn’t he show some kind of evidence?
I used to have a journal. I don’t have it anymore, but fortunately I recorded a section of it for an adult Sunday school class I helped teach at my church on, surprise surprise, why we should care about apologetics. I was using myself as an example of how it’s useful. This is what I wrote in my journal:
My faith has been shaken greater than it ever has before. I have discovered that God cannot be proven. There is no apologetic argument that can be made to show Christianity to be true. I may even dare to say that using pure rationality, God should be in a folder awaiting empirical evidence. The evidence was the reason for the hope that I have. Now I either have to discard my faith or redefine why I believe what I do. Don’t get me wrong, there is a ton of circumstantial evidence that fits much easier into Christianity than atheism or other beliefs, but there is also many things that I would expect if Christianity were true that are not. There is nothing I can say that does not have a naturalistic explanation. I know of the natural world, I do not know of the supernatural world. I have prayed through tears for an answer and I do not seem to be getting one. The last few weeks have been tortuous, doubting the foundation I fall back on everyday. An overall sense of joy and purpose and meaning have been ripped from me. I sit bleeding out to atheism. Spiritual warfare is on; or not.
It’s a little bit of a poetic ending, if I do say so myself. I was multiply confused when writing this; both about what I said about the evidence and what I said about myself. There’s blatantly false statements; and category errors; and what the heck does “pure rationality” mean? There’s going to be a future blog post on how misguided I was.
It’s interesting reading this now and seeing that “evidence was the reason for the hope that I have.” You know those Youtube videos that are usually titled something like “ATHEISM DESTROYED IN 3 MINUTES” or something like that? They’re often written in all caps. And they always suck. Fairly consistently they’re an emotional appeal or saying “you don’t know God doesn’t exist” in one way or another.
Those types of things were my reasons. Bad sites and bad teaching. God of the gaps. Poor critical thinking. What I wrote is the result.
I was near the end of my plight. I was emotionally exhausted and frustrated. I was tired of talking to myself and calling it prayer. I knew my experiences of God can be explained naturalistically. That doesn’t mean it was proven they weren’t, but why would I think supernatural if I don’t have a reason to? So I prayed one more time: “God, if you don’t reveal yourself, I’m out. If you exist, you have to show me.”
Then a website popped into my head. It was a website that my friend told me about a year or two earlier, which I had immediately forgot about because I didn’t really care: www.reasonablefaith.org.
I absorbed that website. First, it’s run by an actual scholar and not some blogger (btw, if I’m your source, I’m flattered, but please verify my ideas with actual scholars). The site not only had articles providing scholarly arguments and responses, but a Q&A where answers to emailed-in questions were provided. And there’s debates. Debates are a great forum because you can see both sides of an argument side by side.
Because I was then reading what scholars are actually saying, it allowed me to also track down scholarly dissenting positions. It was almost therapeutic. It turns out the atheist stuff I had been reading was worse than the crappy theist stuff I read. Their articles were basically the intellectual equivalent of yelling you’re stupid for believing in God while twirling their fedora with their solely erect middle finger. So finding calm, reasoned positions on the atheist side was a breath of fresh air. I had been bullied into my doubts, not reasoned into them.
That year of my life was basically spent reading arguments for and against God’s existence and watching debates. When I should be listening to a lecture on biochemical oxygen demand at university, I was reading on the Problem of Evil. I procasti-studied the Kalam Cosmological Argument during midterms and finals when I should be preparing for fluid mechanics. When I should be calculating the size of an intersection’s sight triangles, I was reading attempts to refute the Teleological Argument from Fine Tuning. My grades dropped, but this was/is more important.
After studying more in this field than actually studying for my degree, I slowly but surely came to agree with many others’ testimonies, like Nick Watts, a minister in Texas, when he said:
But atheism failed me. The words of the best, most intelligent atheists rang hollow. Their rebuttals and refutations against the existence of God were, in my opinion, incomplete, short-sighted, and at times, ludicrous. While the atheists scream loudly trying to speak for their evidence, the theists, in my opinion, simply step back and allow the evidence to speak for itself. For the arguments of theists were akin to the familiar statement: “You don’t need to defend a lion; you simply open the cage and allow him to defend himself.” (Source)
Or people like J. Warner Wallace, when he said:
I’m a Christian because it is true. I’m a Christian because I want to live in a way that reflects the truth. I’m a Christian because my high regard for the truth leaves me no alternative. (Source)
Through it all, my experience of thinking God probably didn’t exist led me to having better foundations for my beliefs, more boldness in sharing my faith, deeper roots, and a greater love for Christ. And I still read basically the same amount as I did back then. It’s fun. I love it.
Alas, we’ve come to the end of this series, although we aren’t near present yet; and I skipped a lot of significant stories. There’s a lot of learning that was skipped and a lot of dirty laundry that I did not hang out. But we covered the gist of the journey. I might continue this series where I left off a few years down the road, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. It’s been good for me to reflect. Hopefully this has been good for you.
Needless to say, the Church Needs Apologetics. I am a Christian now because it’s true. That’s why I’m passionate about apologetics. I wouldn’t be here without it. Apologetics is what God used to bring me Home.
Through it all, praise God.