On January 1st, in honor of those who received and/or got reacquainted with Christ for the new year, I decided to repost my very first piece: 5 Truths About Salvation You Don’t Want to Hear, But Need to Know. To be sure as many Christians as possible saw it, I purchased a Facebook ad to boost the piece to a few thousand readers across the country.
However, I would later find atheists were somehow among those readers and a few of them made it a point to voice their opinions about God and Christianity on my Facebook page. (Darn you Facebook targeting!!!)
Then, a twitter post later, I somehow found myself in the midst of a theological debate with some upmteen atheists. I gathered most of them considered themselves to be intellectuals. They seemed to enjoy whittling God down to merely an “imaginary friend” and more than a few of them called me everything but a child of God (pun intended). Seriously! One of them called me a “sassy imbecile”! (That one STILL tickles me! Bwahahaha!)
As I noted in Part I of this series, I chose to engage this discussion after discerning the exercise would help offer atheists a better understanding of people of Faith. I certainly received more clarity on what atheism is and isn't. Yet, I noticed that as our conversation transitioned from debating science to my imparting more spiritual truths, my atheist friends seemed to back off. By the time we began speaking not only about the existence of God, but about Jesus Christ and the concept of eternity, I was down to only about two attentive "opponents", whom I gathered were actually more interested in what I was sharing than a desire to prove it wrong.
In the end, I actually found the experience to be extremely rewarding. Even if they do consider me a “sassy imbecile”, my prayer is that at least one of them began to truly ponder what they do/don’t believe.
Here are the remaining top questions posed by my atheist friends.
5 - How can Christians be so arrogant to say Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven?
Jesus is the only way to heaven because Jesus is the Son of God (God incarnate). The only way to God is through God. Not sure why people would think a deity of any other faith would lead them to eternity with the deity of the Christian faith. If you think about it, that honestly doesn't make much sense. Besides, Heaven is God’s dwelling place...it’s His home (Isaiah 66:1; Psalm 11:4). Would a parent give their children’s inheritance to a random stranger? Would you allow your son to bring home someone to reside with you and your family for an eternity when that person doesn’t share your values nor respect the rules of your house? It’s the same concept.
Also, saying Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven isn’t arrogance, it’s confidence in the truth! Besides, if you truly don’t believe in God and believe mankind exists as a result of random particles floating through the universe, that makes our lives purposeless and meaningless. As such, that means there is no such thing as good or evil, or at least no absolute standard by which to measure either. So what is arrogance? How do you measure it? And why is it harmful?
6 - So if Jesus is really THE ONLY way to heaven, what happened to the Jews who died BEFORE Christ was born?
This is actually a great question because it lends the opportunity to show the perfect harmony of the Old and New Testaments (so I'll commit myself to answering it with much less sass). You see, Christ has always been “the way” and, contrary to popular belief, the Jews have always been privy to Christ's Gospel, even before Christ had come in the flesh (whether they all accepted it is another story - see John 5:39-47 and Luke 16:27-31). First, Christ has always existed as God and with God since the beginning of time (John 1:1-5; 10). Second, He’s always been God’s redemptive plan since the fall of man with Adam and Eve’s original sin, and this plan was revealed to Abraham as a promise through whom "all nations of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 3:15, 22:18; Galatians 3:8-9, 16; 1 Corinthians 15:22). Third, Abraham's descendants, those who believed in this promise just as he did, would go on to repeatedly foretell of Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection in the Old Testament - also known as the Jewish "Torah" (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 53; Micah 5:2-5; Psalm 22:16-18; Zechariah 9:9; Zechariah 12:10, and elsewhere). And those Jews foretold of Christ because, by faith, they foreknew what would later be fully revealed and proclaimed as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They had faith in the promise to come through Him, just as Abraham had faith (Galatians 3:29; John 8:56-58; Luke 10:23-24). When men and women who held to this faith died before Christ was born, they died believing in this promise from God - they died believing in the heart of the Gospel, which proclaims the restoration of peace between God and mankind, which offers the ultimate forgiveness of all sins and that offers eternal life.
Before Christ, God led Moses to give His people the Law as a guide and to foreshadow all that Christ would provide. The Law was intended to help the Jewish people understand the heart of God, His requirements for righteousness and to help them maintain purity before God so that they could commune with Him (Galatians 3:19-21). But attempting to keep the Law proved burdensome because mankind is sinful and we would never able to meet God's standards for righteousness on our own. By this, we know the Law was never intended to serve as "the way" to God for all eternity - the Law was NEVER the Jew's "ticket to heaven" (Romans 4:13; Galatians 3:19-21). It was their faith in the true and living God, who promised mankind eternal life through the coming Jesus Christ. Christ was “the way” to eternity with God even for them (Galatians 3:17).
After Christ came, the Gospel was fully revealed and a new testament was established, as He fulfilled the Law. But the purpose of Christ has always been at work (Matthew 5:17-20; 2 Peter 1:19-21). Note that Abraham was not "Jewish" nor a "Jew" - he didn't keep the Law of Moses. But he did have faith in the true and living God who is gracious to forgive sins and promises eternal life to all who believe in Him, because God was and always has been revealed in Jesus Christ. So, what happened to the Jews who died before Christ was born is the same as what has happened to Jews (and non-Jews) since Christ's birth, death, burial and resurrection. If they believed in the promise which was eventually revealed through Jesus Christ, they died an heir of Christ, just as Abraham. Thus, they received eternal life and went on to dwell in the presence of the Lord, just as Abraham (Matthew 22:32; Hebrews 11:13-16; Luke 16:22-23,25-26).
7 - There are like 30,000 gods out there. How do you know the God you serve is the RIGHT one?
The the crux of the answer to this question goes back to my response to question #2 in Part I of this series. To expound, I have to say it’s not good enough to ask someone else how THEY know they worship the "right" God. You have to be brave enough to try God for yourself. You have to investigate Him through the means available. That includes seeking Him through prayer and reading His Word to begin to see His works and guidance in your life. As you grow in your relationship with God, you will trust Him all the more and will find that everything in His Word makes 100% sense. There is not one lie or contradiction in it. (And if you believe the Word of God contradicts itself, it shows you have no real understanding of what you’ve read. You can't use the Word to disprove the Word. That doesn't make sense.) In His Word God repeatedly tells us that He is the ONLY one and true God and if you’re in relationship with Him, you can trust that statement.
I’ve tried God for myself and having been saved through Christ now for well over a decade, I can tell you His credit is A-1 with me. I know I serve THE ONE TRUE God because no other belief system did a thing for me when I was searching for the one true faith at the age of 19. Admittedly, I grew up in an environment where Jesus was the default. But I can’t confidently say I KNEW Him or really believed in Him for myself. He might as well had been Santa Claus.
Confused by all that’s out there - on top of noticing how many people of different faiths (including professed Christians) didn’t necessarily live by all of the tents of their faith, I went on my own spiritual journey for a few years after high school. But neither Buddha, psychics, Muhammad, and not even Judaism, etc lined up with the convictions in my heart. Before fully giving in to Christ, I felt trapped by the circumstances of my life, as if I had to carry the full burden of them all. I was always in a state of feeling guilty - as if I had to work overtime to get back “right” after a mistake. I never truly felt free and long dealt with anxiety and depression because I kept trying to “fix” everything but I couldn’t. But once I finally settled on Christ, I gained SO MUCH PEACE! God knows this is true! There wasn't all of these rituals to follow that if I forgot one step I wasn't truly devout. I didn't have to pray to multiple gods or saints to fix my situations. I didn't have to ritually pray to God. Faith in Christ wasn't stressful nor did it require "extra stuff". I simply believed. I felt lighter and as I humbly submitted my life to God, He began to give me what I needed to build trust in Him each day. God is all powerful, but He’s also rational. He didn’t just say “trust me” and leave me hanging. He took care to help me establish trust in Him. For about a year after I got saved it’s like He immediately answered most if not all of my prayers, was quick to send me signs and confirmations, and He granted me so much favor just to show me I was praying to the right God (in the right name). Perhaps this was my experience because He knew how confused I was, but it definitely got my attention and helped me begin to plant roots in the Faith.
The point is, HE showed ME He was faithful...I didn't have to jump through hoops to prove anything...I only had to be humble and believe Him and trust Him. I continue to grow into a better person as a result. And that's how I know I serve the true and living God. But, again, how I know is merely how I know. This is why a personal relationship and knowledge of Him through His Word (the Bible) is key. It's set up that way so that NO ONE - no matter how intellectual their argument or colorful their "gods" - can ever convince you otherwise.
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
-Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30)
I said all of this to say...
As I close I want to note that I use this blog to share the Goodness of God and to encourage fellow Christians in their faith. I use this as an outlet to offer real life examples of my encounters with Him and serve as yet another witness for God's faithfulness. I never imagined a day that I would be having a conversation or debate with those outside of my Faith, let alone those who don't even believe God exists. That was never my personal desire. I didn't go seeking this discourse - they came to me. But I believe God orchestrated all of this for a reason, so my prayer is my non-believing 'friends' got something spiritually beneficial out of the exchange.
At the end of the day, whether anyone who comes across this blog or picks a debate with me on social media eventually chooses God for themselves is up to them. God loves us all and all He ultimately wants us to do is to love Him back (Matthew 22:37-40). That's all Christianity is - having a genuine, faithful relationship with God. God urges us to seek Him...to choose Him, but He won’t force anyone to do so - and neither can I. So, if it’s a “CHOOSE GOD OR ELSE...” argument you want out of me, you will not find it. I will only share what I KNOW, and I trust that God will take it from there.
*This post has been updated.