From Atheism to Christianity: a Personal Journey
Do you find it difficult to believe in God or accept the claims of Christianity? I did, when I was an atheist, but I changed my mind, and my reasons for doing so may be of interest to you in your own personal journey and attempts to make sense of life.
I am a freelance writer and lecturer. Since graduating from Oxford in 1973, with a degree in politics and philosophy, I have spent most of my professional life in politics and journalism, loving, as I do, the world of books, ideas and debate. Two questions in particular have always interested me. Is there a God? And, if there is, what is the connection between God and freedom?
Growing up in a non-Christian family with intellectually gifted but unbelieving parents, I used to think that belief in God and the supernatural had been discredited by the advance of science, and was incompatible with liberty. Religious faith seemed to me to involve the blind worship of a cosmic dictator, and the abandonment of reason in favour of ‘revelation’. Why, in any case, should I take religion seriously, I thought, when the existence of evil and suffering clearly discredited the Christian claim that our world owed its existence to a benevolent Creator?
religious faith seemed to me to involve the blind worship of a cosmic dictator
My scepticism and hostility towards Christianity, which developed in my teens under the influence of thinkers like Ayn Rand and Bertrand Russell, grew even stronger while I was at Oxford. Then, at the age of 24, I met my future wife, who turned out to be a Christian. Shocked by the discovery that this highly intelligent and beautiful woman was ‘one of them’, I determined to find out whether there was any good evidence for the existence of God and the truthfulness of Christianity, making it quite clear from the outset, however, that I was not prepared to become a believer just to cement our relationship!
I started to read C.S. Lewis, whose Chronicles of Narnia I had enjoyed as a child. I did so for three reasons. First because he had himself been an atheist, and might therefore be able to answer my many questions and objections. Secondly, because I respected his intellect. Here was a man who had graduated from Oxford with Triple First Class Honours in Classics, Philosophy and English, and had then become one of the greatest British academics of his generation. If he could have made the journey from atheism to Christianity, perhaps I was mistaken in thinking that you had to bury your brain in order to believe in God. Furthermore, and this was my third reason for studying his writings, you couldn’t accuse C.S. Lewis of being glib or shallow about suffering. Having lost his mother at the age of 10, been unhappy at school, and then gone on to experience the horrors of trench warfare during the First World War, he was obviously only too aware of the problem of evil. His discussion of these issues would surely, I thought, be illuminating.
This proved indeed to be the case. As I read Lewis’s three most important books, Mere Christianity, Miracles and The Problem of Pain, I found myself not only following in the footsteps of a person who had wrestled with all the issues that were troubling me; I was also discovering intelligent and convincing answers to all my doubts.
Illuminating Insights about the Problem of Evil
Since my own father had died when I was only 17, I found what Lewis had to say about the problem of evil particularly pertinent. As he rightly points out, we cannot complain about the existence of evil and suffering, and use that as an argument against the existence and goodness of God, unless we first believe that the standard of right and wrong by which we judge and condemn our world is an objective one. Our sense of justice and fairness has to be a true insight into reality, before we can we be justified in getting angry and indignant about all the pain and injustice we see around us. But if this is the case, what explains the existence within us of this inner moral code or compass? According to atheism, human beings and all their thinking processes are simply the accidental by-products of the mindless movement of atoms within an undesigned, random, and purposeless universe. How then can we attach any ultimate meaning or truth to our thoughts and feelings, including our sense of justice? They have, on this view, no more validity or significance than the sound of the wind in the trees.
But if, on the other hand, we refuse to accept this conclusion, insisting, for example, that it is always and objectively true that you should love your neighbour and you shouldn’t torture children, we are led away from atheism. The presence within us of an objective moral law ‘written on our hearts’ points instead to the existence of an eternal Goodness and Intelligence which created us and our universe, enables us to think, and is the eternal source of our best and deepest values. In other words, Lewis argues, atheism cuts its own throat philosophically, because it discredits all human reasoning, including the arguments for atheism.
If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.
Only by acknowledging that there is a God, he concludes, can we hope to make sense of human existence, the world we inhabit, and, paradoxically, the problem of evil.
But if God is goodness personified and therefore, as our Creator, the divine source of all that is good, true and beautiful, why is there so much evil and suffering? What has gone wrong? The Christian answer to that question, Lewis argues, is that our world has been damaged by rebellion against God. An originally good creation has been spoiled.
If you find this hard to believe, consider the evidence. Look at all the many examples there are of benevolent and intricate design in Nature: the nest-building instincts of birds, the incredibly complex structure of the human brain, the navigational systems of bats and whales, the biological software of DNA in every cell of our bodies, sexual reproduction, etc. All this exists side by side with harmful viruses, disease and death. Can its obvious implications be ignored? Consider, too, the significance of the fact that human beings possess an inner moral code they cannot get rid of yet seem unable to obey. Does all this not suggest some process of deterioration from hopeful beginnings? Is it not also significant that many ancient peoples and cultures, including the Chinese, have some tradition of a lost Paradise in the dim and distant past?
A Convincing Explanation of the Origin of Evil
Speaking for myself, I find this evidence convincing, but what has really persuaded me of the truthfulness of the Christian explanation of the origin of evil and suffering, is its inherent philosophical credibility. As C.S. Lewis points out, true love is a voluntary union of free individuals giving themselves to each other for their mutual delight and for the mutual enjoyment of life and all its blessings. Consequently, when God created the first human beings, He gave them the gift of free will. He did so in order that they and all their descendants might share His life, His love, His joy and His beauty, with Him and with each other. As part of this gift of free will, God also gave human beings creativity and intelligence in order that they might be good stewards of the world in which he had placed them, sharing its joys and adding to its wonders and beauty. But the problem with free will is that it can be corrupted and misused. Our inner freedom to relate to God and other people in harmony and love, can be turned on its head. We can choose, instead, to reject our Creator and live only for ourselves. And that, sadly, is what has happened to the human race. It is what lies behind the famous biblical story of the ‘Fall of Man’ in the Garden of Eden: our ancestors disobeyed God, with deadly consequences for themselves and posterity.
a creature rebelling against its Creator, Lewis argues, is like a plant refusing to grow towards the sunlight
For the reasons I have already mentioned, I have no doubt that the ‘Fall of Man’ was a real historical event, but what gives the whole story its ‘ring of truth’ is its totally convincing picture of the disastrous consequences of turning away from God. A creature rebelling against its Creator, Lewis argues, is like a plant refusing to grow towards the sunlight. It results in a broken relationship which separates that creature from the eternal source of all life, love, truth and well-being, including its own. It was therefore inevitable that when the human race separated itself from God through that original act of disobedience long ago, hatred, disease and death came into the world. Some creationist scientists and theologians believe that the ‘Fall of Man’ damaged the whole of God’s originally perfect creation (as described in the book of Genesis), introducing death and disorder into the animal kingdom and the natural world. Others argue that even before the ‘Fall of Man’ the natural environment had already been damaged by rebellion against God in the angelic realm. But whatever you may think about all this, one thing seems crystal clear and made perfect sense to me: separation from our Creator is inevitably self-destructive.
It is inevitably self-destructive not only because it results in death, but also because it is destructive of freedom. Apart from God, we lack the inner strength to resist the downward pull of our fallen natures. Without His help, we cannot overcome all the temptations we face to give in to our lowest impulses and pursue our own interests at the expense of others. And if, in addition, this diminution of our inner freedom is accompanied, as in so many lives, by positive disbelief in God, a new danger arises. We lose our sense of accountability and belief in moral absolutes because we no longer believe that there is a Divine Judge to whom we are ultimately responsible. That is one of the reasons why militantly atheistic socialist regimes have produced the bloodiest tyrannies in history, slaughtering 100 million people in internal repression during the 20th century. It also helps to explain the growth of crime, delinquency and sexual immorality in post-Christian secularised Western societies.
If the human race has cut itself off from God through sin, what has been God’s response? Has he abandoned us, and all His creation, to corruption and death? On the contrary. The whole of the rest of the Bible after the third chapter of Genesis describes God’s rescue plan. And at the heart of that rescue plan is the greatest and most extraordinary event in history: the incredible but true story of God coming down into our world to live and walk among us as a human being – as a first century Jewish carpenter from Nazareth, called Jesus.
you could only believe such stories, I thought, if you were scientifically illiterate
Before I started reading C.S. Lewis, I dismissed this whole idea as an absurd fable. Even if Jesus had really existed, how could one believe that he had performed all those miracles recorded of Him in the New Testament? Hadn’t the advance of science revealed that our universe is a beautifully ordered cosmos governed by physical laws which cannot be broken, but which can be described in the precise language of mathematics? Didn’t the laws of physics and chemistry rule out the possibility of a man walking on water or rising from the dead, as Jesus was said to have done? And how could one believe that Jesus had once turned several jars of water into wine at a wedding feast, or fed five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish? You could only believe such stories, I thought, if you were scientifically illiterate, as everyone clearly was in ancient times. Furthermore, I asked myself, how on earth could Jesus’ death on a Roman cross ‘save’ us from our sins and reconcile us to God? No-one had ever explained this mystery to me!
Re-examining My Objections to the Supernatural and Miracles
Once again, however, Lewis’s writings forced me to re-examine my objections to Christianity and the historical claims about Jesus on which it is based. As he points out in his brilliant book, Miracles, you cannot rule out the supernatural on scientific grounds without first begging the question of God’s existence. Atheism denies the supernatural by definition, but if atheism is false and God exists, who is to say that God is not able to intervene in His creation? If a human author can change the ending of one of her plays or novels at the stroke of a keyboard, then surely the Creator in whose image we are made can alter the natural environment, reverse the progression of a disease, or conquer death in ways we consider ‘miraculous’.
if atheism is false and God exists, who is to say that God is not able to intervene in His creation?
In any case, argues Lewis, the whole idea that it is somehow unscientific to believe in God and therefore in the possibility of miracles, is both historically and philosophically mistaken. Modern science owes its very origin to monotheistic religion. To quote Lewis:
Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver. (Miracles)
That is why most of the great founding fathers of modern science believed in God and were Christians who took the Bible seriously. To mention just a few of them and the scientific disciplines they helped to establish, they include: Galileo and Kepler (astronomy), Pascal (hydrostatics), Boyle (chemistry), Newton (calculus), Linnaeus (systematic biology), Faraday (electromagnetics), Cuvier (comparative anatomy), Kelvin (thermodynamics), Lister (antiseptic surgery), and Mendel (genetics). All these men believed in an ordered universe and in the possibility of discovering how it functioned because they were convinced that the evidence of intelligent design in Nature indicated the existence of an Intelligent Creator. As Kepler put it, writing in the 17th century:
The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed on it by God, and which he revealed to us in the language of mathematics.
Lewis not only persuaded me that there is no reason to disbelieve in miracles and the supernatural on scientific grounds; he also pointed out the absurdity of attributing all belief in miracles to ignorance of the natural laws revealed by science. Jesus’ contemporaries in first century Palestine may have lacked the knowledge of modern physicists, but they were perfectly well aware that His virgin birth or His instantaneous healing of lepers were events which went against the normal course of nature, otherwise they would never have regarded them as miracles. Joseph, as we are told in Matthew’s Gospel, was resolved to break off his engagement to Mary precisely because he knew as well as you and I do that women don’t usually become pregnant without first having had sex with a man! Similarly, as we are told in John’s Gospel, ‘Doubting Thomas’ refused at first to believe the report of the other disciples that Jesus had risen from the grave, since he knew as well as any modern atheist that the victims of a Roman crucifixion did not normally return from the dead. It is therefore irrational to dismiss all reports of miracles as the unreliable testimony of credulous witnesses. You must examine the evidence for them with an open mind.
rather than fairy tales, we are confronted with something much more rational and believable
If, responding to this challenge, we look with an open mind at the accounts in the New Testament of the miracles of Jesus, Lewis argues, we are brought face to face with an interesting and significant fact. Instead of finding there the stuff of fairy tales – talking animals or frogs turning into princes – we are confronted with something much more rational and believable. What we see in most of Jesus’ miracles is what God does in the natural world, as its Creator, but localised and speeded up. Thus every year, for example, tiny seedlings of grain created by God grow into vast harvest fields of wheat and thousands of loaves of bread. The same process of multiplication took place in Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand, but localised and speeded up. Similarly, God is always turning water into wine by the action of sunlight and rain on the fruit of the vine, and by the involvement of human beings in all the stages of winemaking. At the wedding feast in Cana (recorded in John’s Gospel), Jesus, as God the Creator incarnate, also turns water into wine, but here again the conversion process is localised and speeded up.
Exactly the same parallels apply to Jesus’ miracles of healing. Human beings created by God are constantly recovering from illnesses and diseases through the medical stimulation of their bodies’ God-given immune systems. So when Jesus healed lepers with a touch of His hand or a word of command, we again see God the Healer at work, but localised and speeded up, as man to man in ancient Palestine. In other words, says Lewis, the purpose of Jesus’ miracles was not just to show God’s love for humanity but to reveal to the people around Him (and to us) the presence among them of their Creator and Saviour.
In addition to convincing me of the inherent reasonableness of the New Testament record of Jesus’ miracles, Lewis’s writings also helped me to understand why the Christian concept of God as a union of three persons within one Godhead (the ‘Trinity’) made sense, and why ‘God the Son’, the second person of that ‘Trinity’, had to come down into our world as Jesus, to ‘die for our sins’ and conquer death on our behalf.
Christianity involves a mystery about God
beyond human understanding but not against it
As Lewis explains in his most readable book, Mere Christianity, God is Love personified since, as our Creator, He is the divine source and origin of all human (and animal) love. But since love involves relationships between people, we should not be altogether surprised to discover that God in His own Being is a loving union of three distinct persons – described in the New Testament as ‘Father’, ‘Son’, and ‘Holy Spirit’. It is of course true that this revelation may at first appear startling and strange, but it does not seem unreasonable once you think about it.
The same thing applies to the apparently perplexing and contradictory notion of unity in diversity. How can God be a union of ‘three-in-one’? Well, says Lewis, what appears to be an impossibility in our dimension of being is not necessarily an impossibility in God’s dimension of Being. To use his very helpful analogy, you can’t picture a union of six separate squares in a two dimensional world, but you can picture a cube in a three dimensional world. So just as a cube is one body made up of six separate squares, so God is one Being made up of three separate persons. Again, this revelation may come as a shock, but it does not seem unreasonable. And this, argues Lewis, is another reason why Christianity has that strange ‘ring of truth’. It gives us information about God which no-one would ever have thought of making up, yet still manages to make some kind of sense. It involves a mystery about God which goes beyond our human understanding but not against it, which is surely what we ought to expect if there is a God.
I must emphasise, at this point, that the Christian concept of the Trinitarian nature of God is not something that Christian theologians simply invented many decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection. It emerged quickly and naturally as Jesus’ first disciples and followers came to understand the logical implications of His life and teachings, and reflected on what He Himself had said about His relationship and union with His ‘Father’. And since love was and is at the heart of that relationship, and explains why God created the universe and gave us the gift of life, it also tells us why His rescue plan for the human race necessitated His arrival in our world as a human being, and His cruel death under Pontius Pilate.
We are Alienated From Our Creator
As Lewis puts it in Mere Christianity, the difficulty we face as fallen human beings, whether we realise it or not, is that we are alienated from our Creator because the moral imperfection we have inherited from our rebellious ancestors – our wrong thoughts and motives, as well as our bad behaviour – inevitably separates us from God. This may seem unjust, extreme, and hard to believe, since we are accustomed to being a mixture of good and bad (‘nobody’s perfect!’ we say), and cannot, in our fallen state, altogether help being imperfect. But the problem is that our Creator God is not only Love, but Goodness and Justice personified, and therefore infinitely ‘holy’ – to use the language of the Bible. This means that He cannot overlook our moral failings and be united to us in love, since His perfect character is repelled by our sinfulness. His justice demands that the human race should bear the full destructive consequences of turning away from Him and flouting His will.
We personally may not have rebelled against God at the dawn of history, but like all human beings since that time, we have been morally and spiritually damaged by the severance of that spiritual umbilical cord between God and Man which used to exist in the Garden of Eden. God’s love and goodness and joy can no longer flow unimpeded through us, because our human nature has been corrupted and we have become broken vessels that cannot retain the water of divine life. That is to look at our situation from God’s point of view. If we examine it from our own human perspective, the problem doesn’t get any easier. In order to be reconciled to God, the debt owed to Him by our wrong-doing must be paid, but we are morally and spiritually bankrupt. Reconciliation with God also requires perfect repentance, but it takes a good person to repent since repentance involves not only eating humble pie and saying sorry to God, but also surrendering our lives to Him. If we want to reconnect with our Creator, we must abandon our self-centredness, but the problem is that the worse we are, and the prouder we are, the harder it is for us to do this.
Given this dilemma, what did God have to do to resolve it? How could He reconcile His justice with His mercy? How could He save the human beings He had created in love from the consequences they had brought upon themselves by the misuse of their free will? How, in other words, could God save us from death and separation from Him in eternity? And let’s be clear what this involves, however upsetting it may be. To be separated from God in eternity, means to be consciously and forever separated from the source of all life, all love, all joy, all truth, and all beauty. That is an indescribably terrible fate, about which Jesus spoke with real horror in the Gospels, but it is what we all risk if we refuse to accept God’s rescue plan for ourselves. So what, then, is God’s rescue plan? How can we be reconnected with our Creator?
According to Lewis, God could only save us by becoming a human being and dying on our behalf, because only in this way could He enable us to go through that process of dying to self without which true repentance and reconnection with Him is impossible. Just as we are enabled to think because God created our minds and nurtures our intelligence, so, argues Lewis, we can now repent of our sins and give ourselves to God, because the capacity to die to self is now part of God’s divine nature in Jesus, and can therefore be communicated to us through our union with Him. Our ability, if we choose, to be reunited with God, was also won for us by Jesus because, as Man, and therefore our representative, His death on the cross paid the debt owed to God’s justice by human sin. Like a judge who imposes a fine on his guilty son and then takes off his judge’s robe and pays that fine himself, so Jesus, God the Son Incarnate, suffered the penalty of sin in our place. But since He was and is divine as well as human, He overcame death and rose from the grave on our behalf, having torn down the barrier separating fallen human beings from their Creator. That is the meaning of the Atonement and the Resurrection.
Evidence for the Truthfulness of the New Testament
Persuaded by Lewis of the reasonableness of the Christian message, I then examined the evidence for the historical truthfulness of the Gospel records in the New Testament. And once again closer scrutiny of the facts forced me to abandon my old prejudices against Christianity. The first thing I noticed was the internal evidence for the truthfulness of the Gospel accounts. Far from being self-serving propaganda, the Gospels faithfully record the weaknesses and failings of Jesus’ disciples, including their frequent inability to understand what He is talking about. Peter, to cite the most famous example, refuses to believe Jesus when He warns him of His impending arrest and execution, and is firmly rebuked for it.
closer scrutiny of the facts forced me to abandon
my old prejudices against Christianity
Later, at the Last Supper, Peter swears he will never abandon Jesus even if all the other disciples do, but then goes on to do precisely that, denying all connection with Him in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house after Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. The other disciples are revealed in a similarly poor light. On one occasion they are shown quarrelling about who amongst them will occupy the highest positions in Jesus’ Messianic Kingdom. At other times they, like Peter, are shown to be either unwilling or unable to accept Jesus’ teaching that He, the Messiah, must suffer and die “as a ransom for many”. Not surprisingly, they too abandon Jesus at the moment of supreme crisis in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Even more significantly, all the disciples are taken by surprise by the Resurrection, despite having been told in advance by Jesus, before His arrest, that He would come back from the dead. Indeed, this very fact, mirrored in their slowness to accept the testimony of their women and the evidence of their own eyes, offers powerful support both for the truthfulness and reliability of the Gospels as a whole, and for the reality of the Resurrection. And this brings me, finally, to the two most compelling and convincing reasons for believing in the truth of the Christian message and the story on which it is based: the undeniable fact of the Empty Tomb, and the subsequent careers and martyrdoms of Jesus’ closest followers.
As Frank Morison (originally a sceptic) argued long ago in his illuminating book, Who Moved The Stone? none of Jesus’ enemies and opponents of the newborn Christian Church could deny the disappearance of Jesus’ body from the tomb in which He had been buried by Joseph of Arimathea. Despite having every religious and political incentive to do so, neither the Jewish religious authorities who condemned Him, nor the Romans who crucified Him, were able to produce Jesus’ body, and by doing so, give the lie to the preaching of His resurrection by the disciples. If they had done so, Christianity would have been snuffed out instantly. But they didn’t because they couldn’t.
Secondly, only the fact of the Resurrection and the disciples’ encounter with the Risen Jesus can adequately explain the change that took place in them, and their subsequent careers. Having been a frightened, broken-hearted, and demoralised group of men, they emerged from hiding and became a band of joyful and heroic missionaries, boldly and fearlessly proclaiming the Christian gospel, in the teeth of persecution and suffering. What is more, all of them except John eventually suffered painful martyrdom for doing so. Three of them, including Peter, were crucified; two were stoned to death; another two were beheaded; Thomas was killed with arrows in India; Philip was hanged on a pillar in Phrygia; another disciple was beaten to death, and Bartholomew (Nathaniel) was skinned alive in Armenia. Is it likely, if the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body (as their enemies alleged), that they would have endured all this for something they knew to be a lie? Is it, in any case, psychologically credible to believe that these men, emotionally shattered by Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, would have had the will, motivation, strength, or courage to attempt to snatch away His dead body from under the noses of the soldiers guarding His tomb?
the picture of Jesus the Gospels presented was so vivid and compelling
My former scepticism about the Resurrection was further challenged by the undeniable and highly significant fact that St. Paul, the great ‘Apostle to the Gentiles’, had originally been the fiercest opponent and persecutor of the Early Church. Here was a man who had been passionately convinced that the Christian claims about Jesus were dangerous blasphemy, and that those who believed them deserved imprisonment, beatings and death. Then, suddenly, this same man changed a hundred and eighty degrees and became the greatest and most widely travelled evangelist of the fledgling Christian Church, a transformation, moreover, which began during an anti-Christian heresy-hunting missionary journey! What else, other than his encounter with the Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, could possibly explain Paul’s dramatic conversion? This conclusion is further reinforced by the telling references in one of Paul’s pastoral letters to the many different witnesses to whom Jesus appeared after His resurrection, most of whom, Paul declared, were still alive at the time he was writing (see 1 Corinthians 15:3–10). Would he have dared to say all this, implicitly challenging sceptics to interrogate these living witnesses, if Jesus had not risen from the dead? And would he, like the other apostles, have endured beatings, imprisonment, stoning by hostile crowds and eventual beheading, for a message he knew to be false?
if God ever did come into our world and live among us as a human being, then surely Jesus was that man
The more I thought about all these points, the more convinced I became that the internal evidence for the reliability of the Gospels and the New Testament as a whole was overwhelming. Apart from any other consideration, the picture of Jesus they presented was so vivid and compelling. In its pages you see Him challenging the powerful, comforting the poor, exposing hypocrites, and healing the sick and the broken-hearted. He treats women as equals and shows tenderness to children. Even more strikingly, when Jesus speaks of His divine status (“He who has seen Me, has seen the Father”), He doesn’t convey any impression of madness or megalomania. Instead, His words seem to carry authority, and His enemies are never able to out-argue or outwit Him. In fact, they do not even deny the reality of His miracles, merely attributing them to sorcery! If God ever did come down into our world and live and walk among us as a human being, I thought, then surely Jesus was that Man.
Finally, the last nail was hammered into the coffin of my former atheism by the realisation that there was very good external evidence for the authenticity and truthfulness of the Gospels. There are first of all significant corroborating references to Jesus’ existence and execution in the writings of Roman historians like Tacitus and Suetonius, as well as in those of the first century historian, Thallus. There is similarly corroborating evidence about some of the details of Jesus’ life and death in other non-Christian sources like the Jewish Talmud. To quote one of these, the first century Jewish historian, Josephus, writing in about AD 93:
At this time [the time of Pilate] there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.
(Antiquities of the Jews)
In addition to all this, the manuscript evidence for the authenticity and reliability of the Gospel texts is earlier and more plentiful than that for any other document of ancient times. In particular, the historical reliability of Luke’s Gospel and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles, which is full of explicit political, legal, medical, cultural and topographical details, is confirmed by a lot of archaeological evidence as well as by plentiful documentary evidence from non-Christian sources. According, for instance, to classical scholar and historian, Colin Hemer, in his study, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, 84 separate facts in the last sixteen chapters of the Acts of the Apostles have been confirmed by archaeological and historical research.
confronted by all these facts and arguments, I surrendered my sword of unbelief to God
So, confronted by all these facts and arguments – philosophical, scientific, and historical – I surrendered my sword of unbelief to God, and asked Jesus to forgive my sins and come into my life during the hot, dry summer of 1976. In the years that have followed, I have never regretted that decision, despite many ups and downs and trials of my faith. Through prayer, worship, and the company of other Christians, I feel I have begun to know Jesus personally and to understand something of the breadth and height and depth of His love for me and for all His creation. If, therefore, my journey from atheism to faith has helped in any way to persuade you of the truth of Christianity, I can only hope and pray that you too will experience the joy of reconnecting with your Creator by asking Jesus to forgive your sins and come into your own life. He longs for you and is only waiting for you to make the first move.
On the other hand, if you are still unconvinced by my testimony but are willing to explore these issues further, I invite you to read I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, (Crossway, USA, 2004). It is a very readable yet scholarly book which sets out, in massive and very interesting detail, the philosophical and scientific evidence for the existence of God, as well as the historical and archaeological evidence for the reliability and truthfulness of the New Testament. Get hold of it and see whether it can resolve your doubts or answer your objections and questions.
© 2011 Philip Vander Elst
For an abbreviated audio version of Philip's testimony (15 minutes), click on the audio button beneath 'Hear a former atheist's story' on this page.