Many years back, a friend told me casually, “God lives by faith.”
At the time, I thought that made sense. I thought it was rather clever. It did have a ring of truth to it. And it seemed logical: If I chose to stop believing in God one day, then He would, in a way, stop existing in my life. As far as I was concerned, He would disappear suddenly … and what difference would it make?
Although I’ve been a Christian for a long time – and brought up as one – I must admit that I have occasionally toyed with some hard questions.
- What if Christianity was a lie?
- What if everything I believed in turned out to be untrue?
- What if there was really no God or Jesus, and I had been believing in nothing all this time?
- What would it mean for me?
- What would I do?
That was when I started to think about how I would “disprove” my faith. I must stress that I’m not conducting a rigorous, theological internal debate or trying to figure out whether Christianity is true or not – that’s way too big a question for me! Rather, I’m trying to see whether I could ever convince myself to give up my faith.
In essence, I’m asking myself: How would I know whether I’ve been taken for a ride? What would it take for me to stop believing in Jesus?
First, I would have to prove that Jesus was lying.
Why? Because Jesus had said plainly that He is the only way to God – the way and the truth and the life – and that anyone who believes in Him would have eternal life (John 3:16, 14:6). He didn’t claim to be a great teacher or religious leader, but claimed to be the Son of God, and made it clear that anyone who did not believe in Him would perish.
Now if what Jesus said is true, then I’d be really foolish not to believe it. It would be like ignoring someone who told me not to jump off a building because of this thing called gravity. If I were to decide not to believe in Jesus, then I would need to prove that He was lying, or completely misled.
No wonder writer C. S. Lewis famously said that Jesus had to be a liar, a madman, or the Son of God.
That might seem quite easy – we’ll just assume Jesus was bluffing – except for the fact that many of Jesus’ claims and actions were corroborated by numerous witnesses in first-century Palestine, including unbelievers, Jewish leaders, Roman rulers, and some who opposed Him. Not only that, His words and actions were so consistent with someone who knew exactly what He was talking about, that His enemies took Him seriously – enough to sentence him to death.
In other words, I would need to find an explanation for all the signs and miracles Jesus was reported to have done, and also question the assessment of the witnesses who saw the miracles – including Jesus’ resurrection from death. And I would have to ask why so many people were so convinced by what Jesus said and did, that they have been willing to die for their faith. Were they so seriously mistaken?
Second, I would have to prove that the Bible is untrue.
Of course, I could try to answer these questions by dismissing the Bible altogether. Then I could dismiss Christianity entirely, which is based on what the Bible says about Jesus.
However, a lot of what is written in the Bible has been shown to be historically accurate. The descriptions of various kings, prominent people and major events, for example, have been corroborated by non-Christian sources. But of course, I could argue that only some parts of the Bible are reliable or accurate.
C. S. Lewis famously said that Jesus had to be a liar, a madman, or the Son of God.
Still, I would also need to address the issue of the Bible’s consistent message about Jesus. From Genesis to Revelation, it contains prophecies about Jesus’ arrival and reports of what actually happened thousands of years later, right down the smallest detail like which town He would be born in. The fact is that all these prophecies were fulfilled.
Now, all this could be dismissed as fiction if the Bible was written by one storyteller seeking to convince or confuse readers. But since it is in fact written by some 40 people over a span of more than 1,500 years, it begs the questions: How can all the writers be so united and consistent in their message and descriptions of God? Why aren’t there stark contradictions, as I would expect from many people trying to tell a big lie?
If indeed Christianity were to be a lie, then how did all these writers, made up of people from prophets and kings to fishermen, and spanning hundreds of generations, somehow conspire to produce a consistent story?
Third, I would have to dismiss all my experiences of God.
Admittedly, I haven’t personally seen a dramatic miracle or visions of Jesus. But I have experienced His presence in my life many times. I have seen specific examples of His provision and blessing in my family and career which, if Christianity were false, I would have to somehow explain away. I could dismiss some amazing incidents as coincidences, but in some cases, the timing was too good to be mere coincidence.
I would have to discount all the times God comforted me in my darkest, saddest moments. You might dismiss them as random, warm, fuzzy feelings that came from nowhere. But given that I’m a fairly logical person – not to mention skeptical – that would be hard to accept, even for me. Have I been so greatly deceived or self-deluded? Have I somehow managed to be so logical in all aspects of my life except my faith?
God does not depend on my belief.
These personal experiences form part of my relationship with Jesus that I would have to ignore, if I were to convince myself that Christianity is untrue. Some people have likened the Christian faith to believing in a friend that others have not seen, and it is true for me. I have heard Jesus’ voice, spoken to Him (and heard His reply), and enjoyed His company and comfort. Would I be able to now pretend that this relationship was a complete figment of my imagination?
I would also have to figure out how people I know could have changed so much (for the better) after becoming Christians. There’s the violent gangster who became a caring pastor, the nasty auntie who became a caring person, and the abrasive friend who became much, much nicer after he turned to Christ. Sure, people can change on their own or turn over a new leaf, but it’s hard to see why they bothered to in the first place, if Jesus was not who He said He was.
Some call Christianity a religion – a crutch for the weak.
Others see it as a personal belief or way of life that can benefit one’s outlook on life, but has no foundation in reality. God, they would say, lives by faith.
But having questioned my own faith, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Christian faith is based on both biblical and personal conviction. I believe what I read in the Bible, having assessed it to be truthful, logical, and factual, and at the same time, remember what I have experienced personally. In other words, I believe with both my mind and my heart.
What that means for me is that God does not depend on my belief. He exists whether I choose to follow Him or not. Going back to the example of gravity, I “believe” in gravity because I have seen its effects. And even if I one day decide to declare that God is a lie, it does not change the fact that He exists and that my choice affects me – I would still fall off a building.
In the same way, I have seen enough evidence of Jesus’ existence to be convinced that He does not live simply because I believe Him or follow Him.
What if Christianity were to be a lie? Does God live by faith? You could make a case for it, but I don’t think I’ll ever believe it. Jesus is too real for me.
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” – C. S. Lewis
This article was first published on YMI.today, and is republished with permission.