I was listening to a podcast, “Unbelievable with Justin Brierley”, last week with guest Jeff Zweerink and Phil Harper. Jeff is a physicist who believe in Theism, and Phil is an atheist commentator. The topic was on “new” theories about the beginning of existence. Both guests with great conviction and careful examination of the evidence draw opposite conclusions on whether God could have been a part of this process. It was jolting and disconcerting at first when they both concluded that they don’t have enough evidence to give a definitive answer.This became a mini-moment of crisis for my faith (everyone has them, and if you say that you don’t you are either lying to everyone else or your self…or both). All theories and arguments have counter-arguments, and they all claim the same logical conclusion of being right. So, it left me in a quagmire of quandary.
There has to be some where else that one can draw on to anchor one’s beliefs. As a theist I am privy to a very solid anchor, one that is tethered in objective reality: Human Experience. Not just random human experience but rather my own personal experience. See, I have experienced God, ubiquitous and interpersonally.
I don’t mean in a perceived or idealized sense. I mean that I have literally experienced God. He has impressed dreams, visions, thoughts, words for other people, and occasionally performed healing for myself and other after I prayed. There have been times of total peace in my mind and my being when my knees should have been knocking together, and boldness where my personality would have forced my head in the sand. God has manifested himself real, tangible, and powerful in my finite and fleeting life.
Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig refer to this type of understanding as Warranted Christian Belief. The concept is simple, we experience God on a properly basic level and have the witness of the Holy Spirit working tangibly in our lives to second the notions of the existence of God.
However, stepping back from the philosophical argument, I spent the rest of the day thinking about how God intervened or manifested real and tangible in my life. This realization increased my faith to levels greater than they were before I listened to the podcast.
I remembered moments where God imparted knowledge to my mind and thoughts to my mind about people I was meeting for the first time wherein I would’ve had no prior knowledge. Furthermore I wouldn’t have even wanted to engage them had not the encounter been impressed upon me to go and talk to them, a stranger, in a public place. The skeptics will balk and say that it was chance, or the per chance neuro-biological interfacing of brain waves “yada yada yada”…but I was meditating and consciously thinking about God. I was engaged in a constant state of prayerfulness, which I am not always in, and the thoughts and words were about God or God wanting them to know something about themselves or their current situations. It wasn’t random neurons firing coincidentally. It was specific, timely, and bang on cue. I mentioned that I am not always in that place of prayerfulness for a reason, it is much more difficult to hear words and thoughts like this when I am not in that mindset. It is like listening to a radio with prevailing and overwhelming static, but when I am in this mindset, I can hear with clarion specificity.
The good news about my experiences is that I don’t have to convince anyone else that I’ve experienced these things, because I have. These experiences cause me to look at reality and existence, and search out which philosophies and beliefs systems allow for such tangible and real experiences, and can they be defended logically and sanely. Theism, mainly, Christianity, best expresses my personal and objective experience in reality. When I was in my “seeking for Truth” stage I had to repress, ignore, or reject parts of my experience because they didn’t fit any other belief system. I couldn’t find a circumspect belief system in Atheism, Transcendentalism, Islam, or any Eastern Religions.
Not all experiences are tangibly true, but it is up to skeptics to prove to those experiences are not true. As a Christian I have thousands of years (6000 at least) historical accounts of similar and exact experiences. I understand that people can lie, hallucinate, etc., but consider there is no benefit socially or financially for me, a Christian with no pulpit or mega-church congregation to tempt me to conflate my experiences. In a world that says dreams, visions, and healing are superstition and hokum I have little chance of being taken seriously academically as well…unless I have indeed experienced these things. I can say that I have experience manifest God in my life since I was a child even before I knew anything about Christianity. It is up to the skeptics to dismiss me or prove me wrong, I am standing on 30+ years of experiences. My life has been my experiment, wherein my conclusions has been verified again and again.
I constantly challenge myself to think through my worldviews and I will not be afraid, nor will I cower under a guise of religiosity. I would not be in the current state of confidence about my beliefs had I not entertained the notions that I might be wrong. Life is not about being comfortable for me it is about being Unabashedly Resolute (title of my new book and apologetic training materials…keep on the look out for it this year). Paul’s words to Timothy have always burned in my heart:
This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; (I Timothy 1:18, KJV)
So much so that I named this website after this scripture and what it has meant to me on my journey. We can be confident that we have a hope, not only in this life but the one to come. Paul tells the Corinthians,
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (I Corinthians 15:19, KJV)
I encourage you to fully engage the world of apologetics and the world of intimacy with Jesus in a personal, deep relationship. It is only through both disciplines of study and relationship will you come to know the fullness of Christ in your life manifest. Don’t be swayed to one extreme or the other, we need both physical, tangible experience and the logical arguments to articulate our experiences. We should walk in stride with the Holy Spirit and listen to eagerness to His voice.
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13, NIV)
One benefit is that the Holy Spirit can call to mind the arguments you’ve studied specifically for people in your sphere of influence; those stumbling blocks of belief that they have tripped on for years can be hurdled. We are to train, equip, and be sent out in to the world, let us not stay bound to the parameters of Christian existence. There is a world is worth saving and your experience might just be the stepping stone to help someone begin their own experience with God.
As William Lane Craig says, “We are trying to win people, not arguments.” Take a moment and remember your experiences, your testimony, and then go share it with someone. Let’s us see how God will reveal himself.