I recently finished teaching two courses on apologetics. At the conclusion of a wonderful semester with my students, I came away deeply in awe at the richness of God’s words as the only right lens for understanding our world. But what should I leave them with as a final challenge? Here is what I wrote:
You are a thinking human. You can’t escape your own existence or your own mind. You live in a fantastically complicated world that is bigger than your ability to understand. You will die.
And somewhere between now and then, you ought to think hard about what you know, how you know it and how sure you can be. Something is true; a lot of somethings are false. How will you know? What will you decide?
The issues at stake are bigger than what other people think, happiness or pain; bigger even than life and death. We’re talking about the point of your existence. We’re talking about questions that dictate eternity. This is heaven and hell; this is forever in one or the other. The stakes couldn’t possibly be higher.
Most people will give up on answering these most basic questions. They’ll just live life. They’ll decide what to believe in by what helps them feel comfortable or by fitting in with the people around them. For lack of clear answers or any definite conclusion they’ll give up and settle for a cute place in the suburbs. “The important thing is to be happy…” and so we brush the biggest questions of our humanity under the rug like so much floor-sweepings. Folly.
Don’t just exist. Don’t just try to have fun, then get married, then get a nice job to be comfortable, then try to get your kids into the best schools, then scramble to have enough money to retire, then endure the regrets of old age while wishing your kids would call you more, then die. You’re made for more than that. You’re made in the image of God. You’re made to know truth. You’re made to worship.
We don’t have full certainty, meaning evidence that cannot be questioned. We don’t have the kind of certainty that forces every thinking person to believe, or proves that Christians are the only truly intelligent ones and everyone else the fools. We don’t have the kind of certainty that removes all possibility of doubt for all time. Because if we did, we wouldn’t have or need faith.
What we have instead is a world that cannot explain itself and demands a powerful, all-intelligent and creative maker who appreciated beauty and made us with the capacity for thinking and speaking.
What we have is a book with evidence that cannot be easily dismissed, offering comprehensive wisdom, historical accuracy and exquisite self-consistency between diverse authors across 1500 years. How to blithely explain away the miracle of this book?
And we have a grand story that explains the world—a good creation, broken by sin; a perfect substitute who enters our suffering; the world finally made good again. Does it solve every problem and answer every question? Of course not. But put it next to the competing explanations. It’s not even a contest.
At the center of it all, we have a person who refuses to dismiss sin as only a mistake, suffering as only an illusion or humanity as only another animal. He dignifies mankind by becoming one of us, acknowledges our pain by experiencing it fully, and faces our guilt head-on by paying for all of it. He conquered death. He sets us free from our past sin and guilt, He transforms our lives in the present, and He gives true hope to us and the world by promising to set all things right again.
Christianity offers not merely ideas and a philosophy, but a Person. And then it demands that you come to Him, not as a judge—as though you will weigh out the probability that He exists. You come to Him as you are—a creature that He made; a treacherous rebel and betrayer; all options exhausted and bereft of hope. You come to Him as a worshipper. And bowing at His feet, listening to His words, you find both answers and life.
You are a thinking human. You will die. You ought to have some answers. And there are none richer and clearer than the biblical story. Those who come like that do find certainty. They are the blest; the ones that walk away testifying that “once I was blind, but now I see.”