by Dan Schaeffer
One of the things that we treasure as Americans is our freedom of belief—that we can believe anything we want to believe—and practice it openly. And so we see so many different beliefs across the religious and non-religious spectrum pop up on social media, television, movies, books, magazines, Facebook, Twitter. But something we don’t often consider is—whatever we believe about life, or God, or what comes next—is it worth believing in? Are all beliefs equally worth believing in?
We can get temporary relief from life’s pressures through a great story, or a trip to the ocean, or beautiful poetry or art or a nice vacation. But it doesn’t last—and it is no answer to the suffering in your life, is it? It’s a temporary salve on a bleeding wound.
Agnostics and atheists often decry the Christian’s pie-in-the-sky faith and beliefs in resurrection from the dead—and a belief in another life beyond this one as an impossible and unrealistic belief--a false hope—pie in the sky by and by. Is that true?
Pie in the sky works both ways
A false hope is one that isn’t real and can’t really help you. So the question you need to start thinking about is—what is your hope for this world in? What is your hope for your life in? Is it real and possible? We are told by the humanists that our hope should be placed in something more realistic and attainable, that if we can just learn to all get along—universal peace—we won’t need things like religion, faith, or God.
And modern medicine will eventually learn to cure all our diseases, and modern technology will solve all our problems, and modern science will answer all our questions about life, and modern education will rid us of all our wrong ideas. Unfortunately, history is not on their side. The greatest barbarism of the last century came from a German society that was one of the best educated in all Europe, one of the greatest cultural leaders in art, music, the sciences, and technology, not from some Barbaric primitive tribal people. They had modern medicine, technology, science and education—and they were trying to create a universal peace—albeit under the iron thumb of the 3rd Reich.
Pie in the sky works both ways. While universal peace and the brotherhood of all mankind and technology, science, education and philosophy are all laudable goals, what do you think the chances are of attaining universal peace in your lifetime? What do you think are the chances of science and medicine and technology curing all diseases in your lifetime? Sorry folks, that’s just pie in the sky from another direction. More importantly, is it worth believing in?
Philip Yancey, author of the best-selling book Where is God When it Hurts was asked to address the Newton Sandy Hook elementary school massacre of 20 school children and 6 teachers and staff just days after it happened.
He had been reading the New Atheists and evolutionary biologists writings that the universe has “precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” But as he said, “In Newton I asked the familiar question with a slight change: Where is no-God when it hurts? He was asking the question; what answer do we have to these tragic events without God?
The greatest enemy each person faces is not poverty, or disease, or ignorance, or ISIS or Boko-Haram, or Corporate Greed, or anything else…it is death. We spend most of our time ignoring it until it intrudes unexpectedly and unwanted into our lives, reminding us of its power. We don’t want to talk about it because we don’t have a good answer for it.
Oh, we have answers, we have philosophical ones, and theological ones, and medical and scientific ones—but they don’t fix anything. They don’t make death any better or any less final or bring our loved ones back from the grave, do they?
In our world that has rejected the idea of God and the afterlife all we can do really is hope that intelligent minds can solve some of the great issues facing us. The problem is that they would all need to work in perfect concert. If we find the cure for cancer, but not peace—millions could die in a nuclear war. A cure for cancer won’t stop people dying from hunger, nor will it stop evil people from starving their enemies to death as we see around the world today. And technology and science are two edged swords. Yes, they give us great advantages that help us, but they also gave us nuclear and biological weapons. It all depends on the moral fiber of the people in control of these things—and frankly, that scenario doesn’t fill me with much hope these days. How much hope does it give you?
Imperfect people will always apply themselves imperfectly to imperfect ends. Until we can fix the human race, and the human heart—all attempts at the godless utopian world are just nothing but pie in the sky.
“Just make the best of it” isn’t a good answer
Today we are told that there is no other life than this one. Just make the best of it! We need to just admit that life is really just meaningless busywork in the grand scheme of the universe and leave it at that. Just try to enjoy yourself while you are alive as much as you can, and when you are dead, you won’t be around to worry about it anymore.
Something that we in the modern industrialized nations of the west often forget is that “this life is all there is, just make the best of it” gains far less traction in places where many people short, miserable lives. “Just make the best of it” is definitely a western industrial idea that doesn’t sell well outside those privileged boundaries. It will never have a world wide appeal—nor should it.
What can you hope in if your life is horrible, dismal, and dangerous and the chances of it getting better in your lifetime are slim to none? For an idea, a hope, to be truly meaningful and universal it needs to apply equally to every situation, from the hallowed halls of academia to the Dutch brothels trafficking in human flesh and misery.
So we ask the question: will your hope in life work for…A young girl sold into prostitution in Asia…a young woman coerced into prostitution in Holland…a family living within reach of Boko-Haram…a person who will be born, live, and die in North Korea…a person living within the reach of ISIS…a child born to a drug addicted mother…a person born in India to the wrong and disadvantaged caste…a person born with a terminal disease…a child who lost their family to a tsunami…will your hope work and apply to them as well as to you? Is your hope big enough to encompass all people’s needs?
People need to believe in something. They want to believe in something bigger than themselves—they just want the thing they believe in to be true; truly great, truly relevant, truly life altering. “Just make the best of it” isn’t a good answer to the big questions we face in life. And this leads us to ask the question:
How unreasonable is resurrection?
We hear from our agnostic and atheist friends, “It’s just crazy to believe in Jesus resurrection. People don’t really rise from the dead. They just can’t do that—not if they’re really dead—and have been for 3 days! And…I actually agree with that reasoning. But the New Testament teaches that God the Father raised God the son from the grave. So, follow the logic: if there is a God (and by the way, consistently on every survey and poll done for many, many years in America, over 85-90% of all Americans believe in God)— He created all life. He started it. He should certainly then be able to recreate or regenerate life, especially as He originally created life out of nothing. To recreate or regenerate a life that has stopped should not be even a little difficult for the Creator of all things.
In fact, if you study the New Testament and the words of Jesus, you will see that He was fixated on resurrection (Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:19). Jesus was preoccupied with resurrection during His time with us…and especially as He knew his earthly life was drawing to a close. The reason is because He knew that this life wasn’t all there is, another one waited.
Is it really that unreasonable for a God to raise someone from the dead? Is it really unfathomable that life in a completely different dimension exists outside this one? If that’s so, someone better tell NASA, because they’re still looking for ET out there!
Hope in a person is better than hope in an ideal
Universal peace and the brotherhood of all mankind can’t care for you now, or help you in your suffering. Technology and science, while wonderful in what they can provide to us, offer no solution to the emptiness and despair we can feel about life. Being medicated for depression is a great resource—but it’s not a solution, is it? It’s not a real hope—it’s a band aid. Philosophy and education can be very meaningful pursuits, but they don’t love you, or know you.
It’s not that Christianity has the best fantasy out there, and you should choose it over the alternate fantasies, it’s that Jesus demonstrated His power over death. Talk is cheap, anyone can say they have power over life and death, so Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and several others. Then, when Jesus offered His life to the Father as an atonement for the sins of all mankind, and was crucified on the cross, the Father showed that He accepted that payment and that Jesus was truly His Son by raising Him from the dead three days later, just as He had promised. His resurrection means that He has resurrection life and is the sole supplier of it. He can offer to any who believe in Him the same resurrection life He is enjoying right now.
From the young girl trafficked in sex to the Corporate CEO and everyone in between. Resurrection from the dead is an offer God makes to all people anywhere—through faith in what Jesus did for us. And people today in primitive tribes are hearing and believing, and people tripped up in sin and sentenced to prison are hearing and believing, and people in Communist countries are hearing and believing, and people in industrialized societies are hearing and believing. Why? (1) Because they are convinced it’s true and (2) it’s something worth believing in.
You need to ask if mankind has earned your faith to solve the ultimate problems of our world, or even your personal life. What is your hope in? It’s not a minor issue, is it? Dr. Dallas Willard, the eminent chair of Philosophy at the University of Southern California for many years, was once asked this question after a talk. “I’m confused. You are one of the world’s prominent philosophers, and you believe in Jesus Christ as the hope of the world?” To which Dallas gently responded: “Who else did you have in mind?” The professor was silent.” (Finding God Beyond Harvard, Kelly Kullberg, p. 145).
Do you have something worth believing in? I propose to you that there is something worth believing in, not just for this life—but for after death as well. The beautiful thing is that what we have hope in isn’t a thing—it’s a Person. A Person sent by His heavenly Father to be the answer to the sadness and hopelessness that plagues us.
Technology is a great gift, but when your life is broken and hope is gone—your smart phone, your Tablet, is just a piece of metal. Medical science is a great gift, but perfectly healthy people have chosen to end their lives because they couldn’t think of a reason to keep living. We need a deeper and more accessible hope. We need something that not only has a solution for societies long term needs—but also our broken and empty hearts. Then God sent Jesus.
And ironically, in Jesus and Christianity we find a plan for true universal peace, a brotherhood of all people’s, the answer to physical sickness and death, the answer to the purpose and meaning to life, and a future for not only the world, but each one of us individually. He’s not a program, or a product, or an invention, or a philosophy, He’s a person. He can care about you, He can hear you, He can listen to you, He can answer you. What product offers you that? What philosophy offers you that? What technology offers you that? What scientific discovery offers you that? What new entertainment or diversion offers you that?
Nothing is worth believing in, no matter how good it sounds, unless it is works, and especially, unless it is true. Do you have something worth believing in?